It's been a few weeks since we first learned about the Equifax Data Breach, but we will feel the affects of the breach for weeks and months to come. The breach affected 145.5 million Americans, leaving their sensitive information exposed. If you were one of them, keep reading.
According to the Federal Trade Commission Website:
"The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. "
Were you affected?
- Visit Equifax's website at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Make sure to use this link as hackers have also used similar domains to acquire personal information.
- On this site, click on "Am I Impacted?"
- You will then reach a page where you can enter the last 6 digits of your social security number and your last name.
- From there, the site will tell you if you have been impacted or not.
What to do if you were impacted by the breach
If the breach impacted you, we recommend freezing your credit with the top 3 agencies. It takes approximately 15 minutes to setup a freeze with all three agencies. If the Equifax breach did not impact you, consider taking this precaution anyway. Data breaches happen daily. You cannot be 100% sure your personal information has not been compromised.
Why freeze your credit?
According to the Washington Post: "In basic terms, freezing your credit means placing restrictions on who can view your credit report. Why is this important? Well, applying for housing, checking accounts or new credit cards can all involve a credit pull by potential landlords, mortgage lenders or banks. If you prevent them from pulling your credit, it'll frustrate the fraudsters who need these organizations' approval to open fake accounts using your stolen identity."
What is the downside to freezing your credit?
If you need to open a loan, or credit card, for example, you will need to contact the credit agencies and ask them to "thaw" the credit report so they can access it. When you sign up for your freezes, you'll receive a code or personal identification number (PIN). You will need these PINs to lift your credit freeze. Keep them in a safe place so you can find them if you need to thaw your credit report.
- Monitor your accounts. Use a money management tool like Mint or a credit monitoring service like CreditKarma that will allow you to set alerts on your account activity.
- Check your credit reports regularly. You can receive one free copy of your credit report from each of the three agencies a year by using this government sponsored site.
- Use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane to store all of your passwords so you don’t have to remember them anymore. The goal being that you let the password manager create unique complex passwords for each and every site.
- Finally, turn on two factor authentication for every site that offers it, especially your financial institutions.