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Just a few days ago, Equifax Inc. announced that their systems were hacked on July 29 which led to personal user information being leaked. Over 143 million people were affected and their information compromised. After some investigation, it was found that the types of data stolen include Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and even credit card information.Are you part of the 143 million people affected and don’t know what to do next? Here’s a quick guide we made on what to do to protect your credit score and finances.
Don’t know if you’re one of the 143 million people? Check here through Equifax’s website.
Step 1: Enroll in TrustedID
The very first step you should take upon learning that you were one of the people whose information was leaked is to avail Equifax’s free one-year credit monitoring service called TrustedID. As part of their solution and mitigation on the incident, they are offering a free one-year credit monitoring service for both affected and unaffected customers. However, do note that this is not a permanent solution as your data can be kept by hackers for an extended period of time and can still be used after a year. You can apply for the one-year free credit monitoring service here. (This offer only lasts until November 21, 2017)
With this service, you are entitled to these features:
- A copy of your Equifax credit reports
- Free Identity theft protection
- Identity theft insurance
- Internet scanning for your Social Security Number
- A year of credit monitoring across all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion)
- Internet scanning for your SSN to see if it pops up on websites.
- The ability to security freeze or unfreeze your Equifax credit report for one year
There have been issues where checking if you are part of the people affected revokes your right for legal action against Equifax. However, they have updated their terms and removed the line that revokes your right to legal action. Now, scanning won’t revoke your right to legal action.
Step 2: Gather your credit reports
It is best that you gather all credit reports from all credit rating companies for the past four months right now and check if there are any irregularities since this breach happened four months ago already. You are entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months as stated in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Your free credit report is respective per credit rating company so you can spread it out to ensure relative consistency.
If you do spot that there are irregularities, immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission and your local law enforcement. The Federal Trade Commission will act as your coordinator for the identity theft issue.
There are also services available that give you frequent updates on your credit reports. It is best that you enroll on one as this will help you directly spot irregularities that happen with your score and information.
Step 3: Freeze your credit report data
It is highly advised that you freeze your credit report immediately with all three major credit reporting agencies. Freezing your credit report will stop anyone (including yourself) from applying for a credit or a credit report under your name. With this, identity thieves will have a very difficult time in opening accounts under your name as most creditors check your credit report first before approving. The only people that should have access to your credit report once it’s frozen are existing creditors, debt collectors, and government agencies with a court order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
You can, however, lift this anytime but charges will incur and will depend on your local state laws.
To freeze your account, you have to contact the credit reporting companies and supply them with your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal information. After receiving your freeze request, these credit reporting companies will send you a confirmation letter with a unique PIN (personal identification number). Make sure to keep the PIN in a safe place as you need this to lift the freeze.
You can contact the credit reporting companies through their following numbers:
Step 4: File your taxes early
ArsTechnica brings up a very good point that you should file your taxes early as the hackers can use the personal information they gathered to file tax returns for tax refunds. If they file it ahead of you, you won’t get your tax refunds as they have been filed already by someone else.
Step 5: Be careful
Lastly, be very careful with people claiming to be debt collectors or tax authorities. Even if they are able to provide you your Social Security number and other personal information, remember that your information has been leaked. Always double check with the creditors to ensure that you are not paying to these scammers.
Did you know that this isn’t the first hack that has happened this year? Breaches happen daily and your personal information may be compromised. Check if your accounts are breached for free with LoginAlarm.