In September 2017, Equifax released a statement announcing a security breach, putting approximately 143 million Americans at risk of identity theft. During a routine monitoring, Equifax detected what they called a hack into their system. The information compromised consisted of names, addresses, social security numbers, and birthdays.
Even though they learned about the breach in late July, Equifax only recently made the announcement of unauthorized access occurring, causing a significant uproar. To try and make up for the mess this put consumers in, Equifax is now offering a complimentary credit monitoring service (TrustedID) that lasts for one year. This service provides you with copies of your Equifax credit report, the ability to lock your Equifax credit report, 3-bureau credit monitoring of your reports, internet scanning for your social security number, and identity theft insurance.
Equifax set up a website to determine if you’ve been affected by the incident, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. If you think your information has been compromised, you have a few choices:
First, you can put a fraud alert on your credit report. Fraud alerts are free and are seen by creditors when you apply for credit. This just means that third parties will be more vigilant in confirming your identity. You could also freeze your credit. Freezing your credit prevents your credit from changing, no new credit and you can’t use your existing credit. No one can access your credit until you thaw it, either temporarily or permanently. Credit freezes may have a fee, so be sure to check with each credit agency.
Another option is a File Lock. Like a freeze, this locks access to your credit, but it only locks your file at the agency you lock it through. For example, if you lock your file at Equifax, it won’t lock at Transunion or Experian.
During this time, be cautious of any correspondence that you may receive from government agencies, such as the IRS. Tax identity theft is more common during a time like this, so it is imperative to follow up with any letters you receive about tax or financial matters and to confirm directly with the IRS that they are in fact accurate.
Many of the Americans affected still have not visited the Equifax website. Sitting back and waiting for something to happen is an egregious error on anyone’s part. Identity theft, medical fraud, and several other forms of theft are very hard to come back from. Be sure to take the necessary steps in order to prevent financial hardships and credit depletion.
If you have further questions about credit and fraud prevention, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.