On. September 7, Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus, announced it had suffered a major data breach sometime in late spring or early summer of this year. Approximately 143 million consumers could be impacted by the breach, as hackers were able to tap into personal information such as names, birthdates, social security numbers, credit card numbers and driver’s license numbers.
While not everyone will be the victim of identity theft because of this breach, it will be important to take proactive steps to protect yourself. Here are some steps everyone should take:
- Initiate a fraud alert
Contact any of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian or Trans Union – and tell them you want to initiate a fraud alert. When a fraud alert is initiated by one credit bureau, the other two credit bureaus are contacted and automatically initiate the fraud alert, too. A fraud alert will notify any potential lender that you’ve been a victim of fraud and they should contact you directly before opening a line of credit. The fraud alert stays active for 90 days and can be renewed when it expires.
- Monitor your bank accounts and credit cards
Regularly check your bank accounts or credit cards for any suspicious activities. If these accounts offer fraud alerts, make sure the fraud alerts have been activated. If you do spot suspicious activity, alert your bank or credit card company immediately.
- Monitor your credit report
If you have not done so already, pull a copy of your free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. Everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report every 12 months. If any new accounts are added to your credit report, contact the credit bureaus immediately.
- Monitor your email and regular mail
Pay attention to and retain any mail or email you receive that is unfamiliar to you, such as notices from the IRS regarding your taxes or any bills from unknown lenders.
- Freeze or lock your credit file
A security freeze will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit report. Your credit report will only be accessible by unfreezing the account. If you are planning on applying for new credit in the near future, you could consider postponing the security freeze. Fees and requirements for adding and removing a freeze vary by state. For more information, click on Equifax, Experian or Trans Union.
If you have any questions about your credit or credit report, please call GreenPath Financial Wellness at 800-550-1961.