Equifax, one of the 3 major credit bureaus, announced on Friday, September 8th, 2017 that they were the target of a data breach back in June that will likely affect up to 143 million US customers. Since the US population in 2017 is 324 million, it’s more than likely that you were affected.
In a lot of ways this is a nightmare scenario. The main reason being is that the credit bureaus hold a significant amount of information about people, including social security numbers, income amounts, and just about everything else an identity thief would need to completely take over a person’s identity.
As far as getting your identity stolen, it’s really no longer a matter of if, but when. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you have a system in order so that you can deal with it. Another thing to keep in mind is that your family, including your children, can also become victims, so you need to make sure they are protected as well.
How to Find Out If You Were Affected
Again, Equifax has disclosed that an estimated 143 million customers will be affected by this latest hack. This is more than half of the US population. If you remember back in 2015, Experian was hacked and it affected around 15 million people. This just shows you the scope of this latest Equifax hack. Unfortunately these data breaches seem to be getting bigger and bigger with each passing year.
Equifax has setup a website where you can check to see if you were affected by the hack. You’re required to enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Once you submit this information, you’ll receive a message back that says whether or not you were affected by the hack.
This website also gives you the ability to sign up for their credit monitoring and identity theft protection service, TrustedID Premier. You might as well sign up for it even if you already have a credit monitoring service.
What to Do Next
The most effective thing you can do when it comes to protecting yourself from identity theft, since you can’t prevent the actual hacks, is to freeze your credit or to simply pay more attention to what’s happening with your finances.
In other words, you should be checking your credit report at least once a month to make sure a thief hasn’t opened up new accounts in your name, and you should be checking your bank statements weekly to make sure you there aren’t any unauthorized charges on your credit cards.
Keep in mind that the hackers who stole this information will likely wait until the news cycle ends before actually selling or using this information. Therefore, you need to be monitoring this continuously. It could take a long time for something to show up.
Lastly, don’t forget about your family members, as their information could have been stolen as well. This is particularly important if you have joint checking accounts or share other financials such as a mortgage loan. It’s important that you make sure they are aware of this data breach and they are taking the same steps that you are in order to best protect themselves.