Equifax Breach: What Should I Do?
If you have been in tune with the news lately chances are you've heard of the major breach of personal and financial information at Equifax. What steps should you take to make sure your finances are protected?
In early September it was reported that one of the three major American credit agencies, Equifax, had been breached and the personal and financial information of 143 million Americans was stolen. What was taken includes credit card numbers, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, drivers license numbers and numerous financial documents.
What this means is that the identities of nearly half of the country can be bought and sold on the black market. Thieves can take over your finances by maxing out your credit cards, taking out loans in your name, opening bank accounts and even getting prescriptions in your name according to CNN Money. If your information is obtained it could ruin your finances, credit and even reputation if crimes are committed in your name.
So what can you do now to make sure that you don't have to deal with identity theft in the future?
Watch your bank statements
You know those documents you throw away every month? You might want to keep them around. Familiarize yourself with your spending habits on your bank and credit statements so you can more easily spot fraud.
Monitor your credit report
If you have never seen your credit report now would be the time to get familiar with it. There are a myriad of free and secure tools you can utilize to watch your credit report and be alerted to any suspicious activity like CreditWise. You are also entitled a copy of your credit report every 12 months from the major credit reporting agencies. Request a copy at annualcreditreport.com. Get familiar with what it looks like and what normal activity looks likes for you.
Set up a fraud alert
You can put a fraud alert into action for free with any of the credit report agencies who will then share that information with the others. These last 90 days and will alert you directly if anyone tries to apply for a credit card in your name. Find out more about initial fraud alerts from the Federal Trade Commission. If you are really freaked out you can always freeze your credit.
Sign up for identity theft protection
If you are really worried you can find many legitimate services that will monitor your finances and life for any kind of theft. The FTC Identity Theft site has some great resources to get you started and take you through the process of what happens if your identity is ultimately stolen.