Credit reporting giant Equifax announced that more than 143 million of US consumers’ information including social security numbers, birthdates, and residences, was hacked, along with more than 200,000 credit card numbers belonging to US consumers on Thursday, Sept. 7.
Equifax is collaborating with law enforcement and an independent cyber security firm to properly evaluate how far the hack stretches across its user base. It appears that Equifax has known about the hack since July 29 but waited to announce the news much later.
The company is offering services that consumers can use to see if whether or not their information is compromised. However, before you sign up for their credit monitoring service TrustedID after the breach, be advised that there, is some controversy surrounding the services involving potential class action lawsuits.
Additional questions have been raised on the Equifax Security 2017 website, pointing out that it may not be the most helpful service. After entering personal information to see if you are impacted, some users are testifying that the responses are inconsistent, increasing doubts on whether or not consumer can truly rely on Equifax to monitor their credit.
A security hack of the company that’s supposed to handle your personal details including your credit information is disconcerting in the least. While it’s impossible to completely, 100% protect your information from hackers, there are steps you can take to mitigate their chances and at the very least make it very difficult for them.
It sounds almost too basic, but keeping passwords active and taking advantage of protection software built into devices like your smart phone are great ways to start. Lots of users find it easier to not have a password or lock of any kind, which makes it a lot easier to access a device that holds your credit card information. If you’re the kind of person who uses simple passwords because they’re easier to remember, be sure to check out some password protection tools to invest in.
Online shopping has made it easier than ever for you just click, add to cart, then checkout. Before you hand over your payment information online, there are a few ways to make sure the websites you shop from are trustworthy.
Regularly check everything. Bank accounts, credit card statements, etc. Oftentimes speed is the key when becoming a victim of a security breach. The faster you can identify the problem, the faster it can be resolved. Staying diligent in monitoring your own habits can make a massive difference when it comes to the security of your personal details.
Setting up a fraud alert on your bank account and credit cards will help with this process. All major banks and credit cards provide fraud protection and allow you to set customize spending alerts. You can receive phone, email or SMS notifications whenever an irregular transaction has been detected.
You can also sign up for a credit monitoring service that will keep an eye on your credit for you at all times:
If you are indeed impacted by the data breach, and want to take the maximum precaution to protect your credit, you may want to consider freezing your credit with the credit bureaus.
Freezing your credit simply means no inquiries can be made on your credit history. In other words, it makes it so hackers cannot open lines of credit under your identity even in the case that your personal information is compromised. This is a good idea for anyone who isn’t looking to take out a loan anytime soon in the near future.
To freeze your credit, you’ll need to apply with each credit bureau independently and provide your personal information such as your social security number, birthdate, address, etc. Each credit bureau charges a fee to freeze your credit, and it usually cost somewhere between $5 to $10 per bureau, depending on where you live.
To your credit with Equifax, go here and follow the instructions
To apply for a credit freeze at Experian, you may do so via their website
To apply for a credit freeze with TransUnion, you can find out how here.
Keep in mind that if you freeze your credit, the only people who can check it are you, and your existing lenders and debtors. You can not do things like open a new credit card or apply for a new loan. If you wish to unfreeze (whether temporarily or permanently) your credit, you'll have to apply to lift the freeze with each credit bureau explicitly.
Experian provides a PIN and an online application, while TransUnion provides a simple login on their website, which you made when applying for the freeze. For Equifax, you can go to the same website through which you applied for the freeze. Be aware that depending on where you live and which service you use, there could be extra fees for temporarily or permanently lifting the freeze.
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