The Equifax hack has affected almost half the country. You may have been hacked. At the very least, there is a pretty good chance your personal information has been compromised. That means you may be hacked later.
Why is this so bad? Normally when a company experiences a security beach you only have to worry if you shop at that store. Even if it is a company you do business with they may not have that much information about you.
Equifax has information on just about everyone. And they everything an identity thief could ever want.
Unfortunately these incidents have become so common, I can imagine some people are starting to accept this is the new normal, and thinking there is nothing that they can do. The fact that these breaches are happening so often is actually the reason you need to change how you do things. Don’t just ignore this problem. Take action!
Step 1 – Are You A Victim? Sign up for Credit Monitoring
The first step is to check to see if your information with Equifax was hacked. Go to the webite Equifax set up to see if your information was compromised. EquifaxSecurity2017.com. To check to see if your information was compromised click the “Am I Impacted” button and enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number.
Make sure you are on the real Equifax site. Click in your web browser’s address bar and verify the web address starts with “www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.” You than can enroll in free credit monitoring with Trusted ID. This is Equifax’s own credit monitoring service. They are offering it for free due to this breach. You can enroll even if your information was not compromised.
This may not be a bad thing to do, but don’t stop there. You still need some bigger changes, and you need to start some new habits.
Step 2 – Freeze Your Credit
Consider a credit freeze. This limits access to your credit report. If someone tries to get a credit card or take out a loan in your name the lender won’t be able to pull your report. If the creditor can’t pull a report the identity thief won’t be able to open the account.
Of course you won’t be able to get a loan either without first temporarily lifting the freeze. While this may be inconvenient it may be a necessary evil in this age of constant security breaches. While this could cost you about $20 to $30, effective October 1, 2017 this service is free under Maryland law. Make sure you put this freeze on all three credit bureaus.
While this may seem like an extreme step more experts are recommending you do this. For more information about credit freezes and how to put one in place go to our post How To Freeze Your Credit or the Federal Trade Commission’s Credit Freeze FAQs.
Having a credit freeze in place does not make you completely safe. After all someone could possibly hack your account and get the freeze lifted. You still have to take other precautions. Remember almost anyone can get hacked. It is almost impossible to make yourself completely safe. The goal is to make yourself a less appealing target and limit the damage if you do get hacked.
These next few steps are things that we should all be doing but most of us are not. While they may take some time if you don’t start taking these steps you are greatly increasing the chances of being a victim of identity theft.
Step 3 – Secure Passwords
Take passwords. Just because you don’t use 12345 as a password don’t feel smug. If someone has your credit report they have a lot of information they can use to guess your password. If you use the same password for multiple accounts and websites an identity thief only needs to hack one company to access all your accounts. Now more than ever you need to set up a system to generate random passwords for each account and keep track of them. There are some apps for that.
Of course if you are going to have this on your computer or phone tech security becomes even more important. So check out Keeping Your Devices Secure. And get a password keeper app for your computer and phone. We recommend them here.
Step 4 – Regularly Review Your Statements
Review your bank and credit card statements as soon as you receive them. Make sure you review any charges. If it is joint account this means asking the other user of the card to look at the charges you didn’t make. If you don’t do this promptly you could end up being liable for the fraudulent charge. This is especially true on your debit card.
Step 5 – Get Your Credit Report
Check your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year. This is a great way to catch any accounts that someone else has opened in your name. Mark your calendar and pull your report from a different bureau every 4 months. While you are checking for any fake accounts also check for any other mistakes. People are surprised how often someone else’s information ends up their credit report. To get free copy go to Annualcreditreport.com.
And another thing not everyone thinks about – check for your child’s credit report. Basically, they shouldn’t have one, and if they do it could be sign that their credit is being hijacked and used by scammers.
Step 6 – Extra Credit!
If you are already taking these steps don’t just stop here. These are just some the basics. To decrease your chances of being a victim you need to being doing a little bit more than most people. Check out the FTC’s website for more ideas on How To Avoid Identity Theft. If you are ever a victim of identity theft check out our article Identity Theft: If It Happens To You.