Credit monitoring agency Equifax revealed shocking news late September 7: A data breach of the company’s servers from mid-May through July 2017 resulted in the theft of the personal information of up to 143 million U.S. consumers—a huge chunk of the country’s 324 million population. Equifax says the breach leaked highly sensitive information, too, including “names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.”
The company will also be sending notices in the mail to users who have had personally identifiable data and credit card numbers exposed.
There are some things that you can do to proactively monitor your identity both online and off. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you should keep a regular eye on your banking and credit card accounts.
- You can get a copy of your credit report online at annualcreditreport.com The FTC warns that www.annualcreditreport.com is the only site “authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law,” so steer clear of others making similar claims. If you see any fraudulent activity on your credit report, notify your bank or credit card company immediately.
- If you see transactions that you do not recognize, contact your banking institute to dispute them.
- If you want to make sure that you’re up to the minute with your banking, you can set up SMS alerts when transactions are made. If you do not recognize one, you can contact the bank immediately vs. seeing this online a few days later.
- If you receive a call that claims to be from Equifax, don’t provide any personal information. “They’re not from Equifax. It’s a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue,” the S. FTC warns. Report the con artists to the FTC.
- When reading emails, social media posts or even getting SMS, make sure that the sender is who they say they are and keep an eye out for phishing emails.
- If you decide to take preventative action, be sure to read the FTC’s guide to credit freezes versus fraud alerts.
Equifax is waiving its usual fee for credit freezes through November 21, Lifehacker reports.
The company has also set up a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559 for additional questions.
Equifax breach: Were you one of the 143 million affected?