We started reporting on the Equifax breach in the Car Pro newsletter last September. At that time I reported that 143 million Americans were at risk of losing their personal information. As we learned more, the true number was over 145 million.
I also reported that the breach included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and – in some cases – driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. Equifax also said some personal information was stolen from thousands of dispute documents.
New Equifax Breach Information
We recently learned that Equifax, in a report to the Senate Banking Committee this week, also disclosed that there were tax identification numbers, email addresses and even phone numbers were hacked. There were also expiration dates for credit cards stolen.
A spokesperson for Equifax was quoted as saying “in no way did we intend to mislead consumers.” If you buy that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona I want to show you.
As a reminder, not only did Equifax have poor control over our information, it waited months to disclose it. The CEO fell on his sword and the company says it has put in many new systems to prevent a problem in the future.
If you have not checked to see if your information was exposed (Kevin and I both were breached) you can check here: https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html
So, after much research here’s what I recommend you do:
What Can I Do To Protect Myself?
Here are some things that might be helpful in protecting yourself:
- Monitor your credit card statements and bank accounts very closely and very often. This can all be done online. If fact, I get an email every morning with my bank balance, seven days a week, first thing in the morning. I can tell at a glance if something is wrong. I also check my credit card statements every day to look at new charges.
- Take a look at all three of your credit reports, looking for new activity and to see who has pulled your credit report lately. You can do this for free here: annualcreditreport.com.
- Give some thought into putting a freeze on your credit files. This will make it much harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name since potential creditors will want to see your credit history. If your account is frozen, credit will not be granted until you contact the credit reporting services to let them know you applied for some sort of credit. Freezing your credit files will not harm your credit score, and will not prevent you from seeing your own credit report. If you want to freeze your credit report, here are the websites and phone numbers of the big 3 reporting services:
- Equifax 1-800-349-9960
- Experian 1-888-3973742
- TransUnion 1-888-909-8872
- 3rd party monitoring services can be used. One of the most popular is called LifeLock (www.lifelock.com). There is a monthly fee involved, and understand this is not about prevention, but about notifying you if it detects any suspicious activity. Once you sign up, if you are a victim of identity theft, the company will reimburse you for the loss (depending on your plan), expenses associated with the identity theft, and attorney fees if needed. There are other monitoring services as well, this is the one I went with.
- Closing bank accounts and re-opening them with a different account number is a good idea also, especially if you have some accounts with sizeable sums of money. If the hackers have your bank account info, it will do them no good if the account is empty.
Photo Credit: karen roach/ShutterstockTags: equifax