Even if you are not one of the Equifax customers, you must have heard of the big data breach that has recently happened. If you want to find out more about the breach and how to remedy your finances, then this the right place for you.
What actually happened
More than 143 million Americans’ sensitive personal information was exposed in a huge data breach that happened at Equifax. According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July. The information accessed by the hackers included people’s names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses and, for some people, even driver’s license numbers. Card numbers of about 209,000 people and documents with personal identifying information of about 182,000 people were stolen. Also, personal information of people in the UK and Canada was exposed. This reminds us of Target data breach which happened a few years ago when approximately 70 million consumers were affected. In times like these, people are afraid and clueless about what to do. As always, as one of the top identity theft blogs, we in Elite Personal Finance team want to help our readers by informing them and especially giving advice to the victims of the Equifax breach. That is why we have made a list of advanced tips for all those who are in need of help.
The Ultimate Guide for Equifax Data Breach Victims by ElitePersonalFinance
We understand that people are afraid when their identities are stolen and their financial stability is compromised. However, in such a situation, to panic is the worst thing you could do. First, there is no reason to stress out because of something that already happened. You simply can’t change it. Second, and more important, panicking will only prevent you from taking steps that will help you solve your issue. These steps are listed below, but we feel that it is essential to mention this as the first step and precondition for everything else. So, once again – don’t panic.
Follow Instructions by Equifax
To protect your information, go to the Equifax website, where you will find useful information about the progress they are making in solving this situation and great advice on what to do. Make sure you are using a safe computer and secure internet connection. To check if you have been affected by the breach, you should go to ‘Potential Impact’ section and enter your last name and last six digits of your SSN. If you have not been affected, you can heave a sigh of relief. But only for a while. What you should do immediately is get a year of free credit monitoring at Equifax, and they will give you the exact date when to enroll. The deadline for enrollment is November 21, 2017.
Pull Your Credit Report
To be completely sure about your situation, pull a free credit report from all three bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union by visiting AnnualCreditReport. Go over all accounts listed in the report and check if they were all opened by you, particularly the ones opened recently. However, you will need to know how to read your credit report. That way, you can check if there have been any fraudulent activities in your account. If you find any suspicious activities, visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out about what to do from there.
Place a Credit Freeze
This is the best way to protect yourself, but it is also the most effective one. Placing a credit freeze will lock your credit report and prevent major credit bureaus from sharing your data to creditors. As long as the credit freeze stays on your file, you will be the only one to authorize lenders to see you credit report. Apart from you, only your bank will have the access to your report. By doing this, you will protect your credit report from identity theft and also protect your credit score, which is very important for your future finances. You might want to know that there are different credit freeze laws. Also, you will have to lift the freeze before applying for a new credit card or any service that requires that you use a credit check.
Place a Fraud Alert
A fraud alert will mark your credit report and let lenders know that there are potential fraud risks on your account, i.e. that you personal information has been compromised. In this case, placing an alert will warn any new lenders to stay away from your personal information and also protect the information from being accessed on a regular basis. There are different kinds of fraud alerts with different duration and features depending on the situation. You can get a fraud alert at any of the three major bureaus. When the alert is placed, your identity will have to be verified each time prior to being issued a credit and all new accounts will have to be verified by you. This will substantially decrease the chances of identity theft occurring to you.
Constantly Monitor Your Credit Report
You will have to be extra careful and take all the steps that can help you protect your information. One of them is to be vigilant about your credit report and activate a free credit monitoring service. There are numerous companies that offer this service. Our recommendation is Credit Sesame Free Credit Monitoring, since they give the best services in this and many other fields, and most important of all, they are a very safe company who will know exactly what to do when a victim of the breach contacts them.
File Your Taxes Early
Respond to the letters from the IRS as soon as possible. But also, try to fill out all your tax forms in a timely manner, as soon as you have the information you need. By doing so, you will prevent fraudsters from using your sensitive personal information (such as SSN) and compromising your identity.
Don’t Fall for Threats
If someone calls you on the phone or sends you an email saying that you will be arrested unless you pay taxes or debt, don’t trust them. Even if they have a part of your SSN or they say they are representatives of IRS, be adamant. This is not how IRS operates and they will never threaten their customers under any circumstances. Such attempts are executed by hackers trying to steal your money by impersonating high-authority services and companies, which is a form of phishing.
Equifax has announced that it will notify people whose information was exposed during the breach. Hopefully, you will not be notified. But if you are, here is what you should do:
– Cancel your existing credit card at your bank or credit card company.
– Make sure to regularly review your transactions and that no one has misused your credit card. If they have, resolve this issue with the fraud department.
– Update any automatic payments with your new card number.
– Check your credit report at Annual Credit Report.
General tips on identity theft protection
Of course, events such as this one are always stressful and can be rather dramatic for some of the victims. However, they also remind us to be more careful about preventing identity theft.
Here are some additional tips on identity theft protection:
Get Identity Theft Protection
Although some people talk against identity theft protection, it is actually a great way to reduce the risk of your identity being stolen. It is true that it won’t guarantee that nobody will steal your identity, but what it will do is notify you after it has happened. This can be very useful because you can react immediately. Most companies charge for these services, but there are also numerous companies that offer identity theft protection services for free. The ones that are paid offer better services and even identity theft insurance or a service guarantee.
Create a backup of you wallet contents
List information from all of your credit cards, ID cards and other documents along with contact information in case you need to report them being stolen or misused. By doing so, you will have a backup to return to if you are affected by identity theft. You will know who to contact and what to do if this happens.
Keep your sensitive information safe
Don’t share your personal information with anyone, especially not online or over the phone. If your information gets into wrong hands, it can be easily misused. What you need to do is keep all documents containing your personal information in a safe place and out of anyone’s reach. You can even think about shredding all documents that you don’t need anymore. In addition, you can protect your Social Security Number, which will be be of great help in your attempts to protect yourself from identity theft.
Even though we hope you won’t need this article, we want it to help all victims of the recent Equifax data breach. If you follow all steps that we included, you will definitely be much safer, wiser and more careful when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones from identity theft.
Do you want to prevent identity theft? We can help.
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