How to Protect Your Identity After the Equifax Breach
Written by Whitney Troxel • Posted on Nov 16, 2017
The Equifax security breach shook the nation. More than 143 million Americans’ personal information was exposed. If your information was compromised, identity thieves could open new credit accounts, access your current credit, or even claim your tax return.
It’s easy to feel panicked in a situation like this, but there are very simple steps you can take to make sure you identity remains protected.
1. Find out if your information was compromised.
The first step to protecting your identity is to find out if you have been compromised.
Go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/am-i-impacted/ and click on the red “Am I Impacted” button to see if your information was compromised. You will then need to enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number. Once you’ve hit submit, you will be informed if your information was exposed or not.
Even if your information was not exposed, you may want to consider some of the following steps for increased security.
2. Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service.
Credit monitoring companies keep track of your personal information and alert you when any suspicious activity occurs. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring for a year as long as you register before January 31, 2018. After checking if you’ve been impacted by the security breach, you can click on the orange “Enroll” button to sign up for their service.
It is important to remember that Equifax’s credit monitoring is only free for one year. If your information was exposed, you will need to keep careful track of your credit for the rest of your life. It’s important to research different credit monitoring services to find one that fits your budget and needs.
Bask partners with top-rated IdentityForce (IDF) to provide credit monitoring and identity protection for our members. Feel free to contact us to make sure your IDF account is activated or if you wish to add it to your membership.
3. Use secure passwords on all your online accounts.
Strong passwords are essential to keeping your online accounts secure. Each password should be unique and include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also change your passwords regularly.
Remembering passwords can be difficult, but fortunately there are passwords management tools like LastPass. LastPass stores all of your passwords in one place, eliminating the need to remember them all. It can generate unique passwords for each account and even help you change them frequently. You can download it on one device for free, or pay $12 a year to be able have access your account on your computer, smartphone, and tablet.
4. Set up fraud alerts or freeze your credit.
This step is particularly important if you choose not to enroll in credit monitoring. If your personal information was exposed due to the breach, identity thieves may try to set up new credit accounts in your name.
With a fraud alert on your account, you will receive a phone call whenever your credit is requested. You will have to give verbal consent before any action is taken. Fraud alerts are free, easy to set up, and have no effect on your credit score. To put fraud alert on your accounts, you just need to contact one of the three credit reporting companies. They are then legally obligated to contact the other companies in your behalf.
If your information was exposed, you may want to consider putting a freeze on your credit accounts instead of fraud alerts. Freezing your accounts means that no one can apply for new credit. It does not impact your credit score, but it does cost $5-$10 depending on where you live. If you need to apply for a new line of credit you can temporarily lift the freeze, but that will also cost between $5-$10. If you choose to freeze your credit, you will need to call each credit reporting company individually to set it up.
You can contact the credit reporting companies at the following numbers:
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
5. Monitor your accounts regularly.
No matter what security precautions you take, you need to monitor your accounts regularly. It is recommended that you check your credit card statements and bank accounts weekly, if not daily. Look for irregular spending and report it immediately.
You will also want to monitor your credit report. You can request a free credit report once a year from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. However, companies like CreditKarma allow you to check your credit score as often as you like, for free. Report any unusual activity to the credit companies immediately.
Following these steps will not guarantee that your identity will not be stolen. However, closely monitoring your credit and bank accounts will allow you to report unusual activity faster and minimize damages.
Remember, more than 143 million Americans’ information has been exposed. You are not the only person at risk of having their identity stolen. Talk with friends and family members to make sure they are taking the proper steps to protect themselves.