Equifax, one of the three credit reporting bureaus that calculates credit scores influencing people’s ability to secure credit, announced they had been the victim of what could be the largest data security breach in history affecting upwards of 200 million people in the US, Canada, and the UK. This data breach may have compromised people’s name, addresses, social security numbers, credit card account numbers and even driver’s license numbers. Many people may not even be aware Equifax has their information. This has the potential of being an identity theft nightmare. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself.
Enroll in Credit Monitoring
A credit monitoring service will alert you when there are credit inquiries using your name. If someone tries to get a new line of credit, you will be notified. If there is any suspicious activity on an existing account, you will be notified. You can also check the history of what’s going on with your credit in hopes to spot anyone trying to steal your identity. Equifax has offered free monitoring service to those affected. Equifax has stated that people can follow this link and enter your last name and last 6 digits of your social security number to find out if you are affected. I followed these instructions and gave a date as to when I would be enrolled in credit monitoring. I don’t know if this means my data was affected, or if I just basically requested credit monitoring. The Equifax people have some work to do with the clarity of their handling of this issue.
Request New Cards
When there is a data breach at a retailer, my bank typically sends me a new card to help protect me. In this case, someone may have all your account numbers. You may consider requesting new cards for all your accounts. This will be a massive inconvenience, but it may be worth it.
You should already be checking over every statement from each of your bank and credit accounts. If not, now is the time to start. Don’t think that just because nothing has happened in the next month or two that the danger has passed. Criminals are very patient and will wait until all the publicity about the data breach subsides before attempting to use the information they’ve stolen.
This is a massive data breach, in both the sheer number and type of information stolen. We should all assume our data was compromised and take action to protect ourselves from identity theft or simple fraud. Our financial futures may depend on it.
Had you heard of the data breach at Equifax? What steps are you taking to protect yourself?