On September 7th, 2017, Equifax announced that they detected a security breach in their system at the end of July. Criminals hacked into their files and stole credit card, driver’s license and social security information. This breach may have affected as many as 143 million consumers in the United States. Were you a victim of the Equifax hack? If so, what do you do now?
Equifax Hack: Was My Information Compromised?
After their announcement earlier this month, Equifax set up a website specifically for potential victims of the hacking: EquifaxSecurity2017.com. To find out if your information may have been compromised, click on the “Am I Impacted” link at the top of the page. After you enter the appropriate info, you’ll see a quick blurb stating whether or not your information may be at risk. Why should you do this? Even if you’ve never heard of Equifax before, they could still have your personal information in their database.
Any time you apply for and/or use a line of credit, that information gets sent to the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. What data do they collect? Account numbers, addresses (past and present), payment history, social security numbers and, in some cases, your driver’s license. But even if your personal information was compromised, that does not mean that thieves are using it yet.
Equifax Hack: What Do I Do Now?
Identity Theft Protection/Credit Monitoring
If Equifax determines that you may have been caught up in the breach, you’ll be encouraged to enroll in their credit monitoring and identity theft protection service called TrustedID Premier. Until January 31, 2018, all US consumers (whether you were a victim of the hacking or not) can utilize TrustedID Premier free of charge for one full year. First, you’ll need to verify some information. Then, they’ll send you an email telling you when you can sign up for the free service.
It’s understandable to be skeptical of using a credit monitoring service backed by a company who held your information that was compromised in the first place. For a fee, LifeLock and Experian’s IdentityWorks programs are the highest rated identity theft protection services on the market right now. Your data stays on the internet for years. Even if it hasn’t been stolen this time, that doesn’t guarantee it won’t be stolen in the future. Signing up for a monitoring service right now could help stop a problem in the future before it becomes a major issue.
Red Flag Your Own Account
Drastic? Yes. Necessary? Maybe. But, after the Equifax hack, you can’t be too careful. When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, it raises a red flag anytime someone wants to access it. Lenders cannot extend any line of credit without verifying that it is you doing it first. Sounds great. On the downside, this delay happens even when you are the one applying for a credit line. That means it will take longer for the lender to approve you. Only you can determine whether the hassle is worth it or not. When you contact one of the credit reporting agencies to place the fraud alert on your account, they are legally required to contact the other two. So, it doesn’t matter which one you place the fraud alert with. Within a few days, they should all have the fraud alert in place.
Pull Your Credit Reports Right Away
By law, you are entitled to one free credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each year. AnnualCreditReport.com provides the only Federally authorized free credit reports. Once you receive your reports, search for any incorrect or fraudulent information. Contact the company reporting it right away. Make sure to send the appropriate credit reporting agency a copy of the error as well.
In today’s growing cyber world, we must be ever vigilant of where our information goes. The Equifax hack proves how important monitoring our information can be. Even if you got lucky this time, thieves are always on the lookout for their chance to steal your information. You need to be ready for them. Take the necessary precautions today.
Scott Gleason, CRS at Coldwell Banker Realty – East, NJ Luxury Homes