Are you among the 143 million Americans’ whose contact info, birthdates, and Social Security numbers were stolen in the Equifax hack? Since it now impacts about half the population of the United States, there’s a good chance you are.
BUT DON’T JUST CHECK AND THEN FREAK OUT. There’s more to know!
Veteran jounalist Bob Sullivan has put together the best rundown of “here’s what happened and here’s what to know now,” that I’ve seen so far. Read through it here.
Here’s a link to the very latest updates straight from Equifax: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/
If you get a result that looks like mine below, you have choices to consider. Keep reading below!
Whether or not you get a good or bad response, the site then asks you to enroll in Equifax’s TrustedID Premiere credit monitoring service. Equifax is offering EVERYONE (hacked or not) a free 1-year subscription to its identity-theft monitoring plan in hopes of protecting people who were affected by the breach.
The service tracks changes to your credit so that it can alert you if it thinks someone is trying to steal your identity and includes:
- A copy of your Equifax credit reports.
- A year of credit monitoring across all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
- Internet scanning to see if your Soc Security number has been posted online
- The ability to security freeze or unfreeze your Experian credit report for one year
- BUT – IT WILL AUTOMATICALLY RE-ENROLL YOU IN A YEAR AND CHARGE YOU FOR THAT – SO BE SURE TO CANCEL IN A YEAR IF YOU DON’T WANT TO PAY FOR THIS SERVICE.
- YOU ARE NOT WAIVING YOUR RIGHT TO SUE THEM LATER.
If you don’t trust Equifax to actually keep your personal information safe anymore, who could blame you? Plenty of people are refusing to sign up for the TrustedID Premiere service for that very reason.
Still, if any company has a good reason to do everything it can to protect you right now, it’s probably Equifax. Even if you choose not to sign up for credit monitoring, the site is still useful to check whether your information has been leaked, and will give you a bit of peace of mind if nothing else.
What you definitely should do, whether you’re wooed by Equifax’s offer or not, is keep a very close eye on your bank accounts and credit activity. If you notice anything amiss, don’t be afraid to reach out to your bank or credit card company and alert them to possible fraud, because the sooner you do, the more likely you’ll be able to prevent damage to your credit and finances.
Also – check your spouse, parents, and kids social security numbers too. This looks like a mess that could get a lot bigger before it gets better.
1. Check your free credit reports
Under federal law you are allowed to request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can request a copy of your credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com.
It will tell you if anyone has requested a check on your credit. This happens, for example, if someone tries to open a new credit card or apply for a loan in your name.
But it could take time to show up on your report, so you won’t necessarily see any changes right away.
And the report itself won’t tell you if there’s been money stolen from a bank account or suspicious activity on your credit card, said Liz Loewy, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney who oversaw financial elder abuse and data breach cases for 29 years. She is also the co-founder of EverSafe, a financial technology monitoring platform.
“Sometimes there’s theft that never makes it to the credit report,” she said.
2. Put a fraud alert on your credit
You can put a fraud alert on your credit reports for free by contacting one of the credit agencies, which is required to notify the other two.
This means you’ll be contacted if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.
It will last for 90 days and can be renewed.
3. Keep an eye on bank accounts and credit card statements
Go through all your bank, retirement, and brokerage accounts, as well as your credit card statements to look for any suspicious activity.
“In most cases, theft happens over time. It usually starts small and money is stolen from across your accounts,” Loewy said.
So, get in the habit of carefully checking your statements on a regular basis.
Loewy also suggests having someone else help monitor your accounts. This could be a financial adviser or a family lawyer.
4. Sign up for a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service
Monitoring services usually alert you when a company checks your credit history, a new loan or credit card is opened in your name, a creditor says a payment is late, or if public records show you’ve filed for bankruptcy, according to the FTC.
But keep in mind, most credit monitoring services only track your credit reports. They still won’t alert you to suspicious activity on your credit card or in your bank accounts.
Some monitoring services include identity theft protection, which will alert you when your personal information is being used in ways that doesn’t show up on your credit report. It could monitor things like utility and cable bills, payday loan applications, and social media.
These services won’t prevent fraud from happening. But some do offer identity recovery services to help you regain control of your finances after identity theft occurs. The government offers a free resource for recovering from identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov.
While there is usually a cost involved with a credit monitoring service or identity theft protection, Equifax is offering a free year of credit monitoring through its TrustedID Premier business, regardless of whether you’ve been affected by the hack.
This will track your credit report from Equifax, as well as your reports from the two other reporting agencies, and alert you to certain changes. TrustedID Premier will also provide free copies of those reports and the ability to lock your Equifax credit report so companies cannot see it. It includes identity theft insurance and it will scan the Internet for use of your Social Security number, too.
5. If you’re really worried, put a freeze on your credit
This is an extreme step and might not be necessary, especially if you don’t know for sure that you’re information was compromised, or what personal information was stolen.
A freeze blocks anyone from accessing your credit reports without your permission. But it can be an inconvenience for you, too. If you want to take out a loan or open a new credit card, you’ll have to contact the reporting agency to temporarily lift the freeze. It’s also not free. Fees to freeze your account vary by state, but commonly range from $5 to $10.