Equifax, one of the three giant credit-scoring agencies announced this past week that hackers had breached personal data that could potentially affect about 143 million U.S. consumers.
According to Equifax, “The information primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers,” Equifax said in a statement. “In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed.”
Wow! What should you do to protect yourself from a potential hacker that wants to steal your identity?
First determine if you were directly affected. Search Equifax’s website and click the red “Check Potential Impact” link, and follow directions. It takes just a second to enter the required information and get a result.
Whether it says you were affected or not, Equifax is also offering to enroll you free-of-charge for a credit file monitoring and identity theft protection program, which includes:
3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers – all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year.
My friends at Wallhub.com also offer these valuable tips to continue to protect your personal information and identity.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication. Equifax was hacked, but your cellphone wasn’t. So use it as another layer of protection when logging into your email account and financial websites.
A Freeze Is Better Than an Alert – It probably isn’t necessary in this case, but if you really want to protect yourself from fraudulent borrowing, freeze your three major credit reports (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). This will prevent anyone but you from accessing them, thus making it impossible to take out a loan or line of credit. A fraud alert, in contrast, doesn’t actually do much.
Suppress Fraudulent Info – While you can dispute run-of-the-mill credit report inaccuracies, it’s best to use a process called “suppression” / “blocking” to get rid of negative info resulting from identity theft. In short, this makes it so the records in question can’t make reappearance after they’re initially removed.
Never Respond to Unsolicited Requests for Information – Don’t be surprised if you see an uptick in unsolicited calls and emails requesting personal information. Just remember: Never answer if you didn’t ask to be contacted.
Don’t let hackers ruin your good credit. Join me on Facebook, search Coupon Clippin’ Cuties and add yourself to our group. Discover that protecting your identity from security breaches is important to maintaining your good credit.
Sandra Dulakis is a nurse, mother and founder of Coupon Clippin’ Cuties.