Ten Ways to Respond to the Equifax Data Breach
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner
It was quite shocking to hear that almost half of the U.S. population had their personal information compromised in the Equifax data breach. If there is a silver lining to all of this, it’s that it forced us all to take better measures to protect ourselves from identity theft. Here are ten ways to do so:
- Determine if you were one of those impacted by the Equifax breach by going to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. The company is offering free credit monitoring for those who were, but I have heard mixed guidance on whether it is a good idea to take it.
- You can monitor your credit easily by pulling your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. By law, you can access your report every 12 months for free from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Pull it from one bureau every 4 months to check your credit throughout the year.
- Get a free credit score and watch it for any big changes. Your bank or credit card company may provide your credit score on your monthly statement. Do not feel pressured to pay for credit monitoring.
- Check to see if your bank or credit card company offers free credit alerts.
- You can freeze your credit to prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name. You may have to pay a fee to each of the 3 credit bureaus, and another fee to each one to lift the freeze. This will not prevent thieves from impersonating you to commit other crimes such as insurance fraud.
- Avoid clicking on and responding to unexpected or suspicious emails. They could be from identity thieves phishing for your information pretending to be your lender, creditor, or a government entity. Always call the organization directly to verify they sent the email.
- Keep your account profile up-to-date with all the companies you conduct business with so they can contact you if they detect suspicious activity on your account.
- Update your passwords – do not use the same password for all accounts. There is a reason companies ask you to make them hard to guess.
- Bookmark this page – www.identitytheft.gov. Not only is it the site you need to go to when you are a victim of identity theft, but it contains links to resources to help you prevent identity theft in the first place.
- Watch out for dumpster divers! Shred all documents that contain your personal information. If you are not sure, shred it anyway. If you don’t have a shredder, add it to your Christmas list.
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