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I know I should have checked to see if the Equifax breach affected me much earlier. I guess I just had too many other things on my mind. However, this morning, I woke up at 4 am, wide awake. The main thing on my mind was to check to see if I was included in the breach.
As a quick recap, Equifax suffered a major breach of their systems from May through July of this year. It exposed the personal identifiable information of 145.5 million consumers. This information includes names, birth dates, street addresses, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers.
For those unaware, Equifax originally reported 143 million affected consumers. Recently, they revised the number to 145.5 million. If you previously checked to see if you were affected and weren’t, you may consider checking again.
At this time, it is unknown whether this was done by a nefarious hacker group or if it was a country-sponsored event. Either way, there is real concern that personal information could be sold to open fraudulent accounts in the future.
Here are the steps you need to do to learn if the Equifax breach affects you:
1. Go to the Equifax Website.
Equifax has created a specific website to explain the details of the cybersecurity incident. In addition, they plan to send out letters to notify everyone affected by the incident. On that website, you can click on “Am I Impacted?” to quickly find out if the breach affects you.
In addition, Equifax is offering to provide free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services through its own program, TrustedID Premier. The program requires that you enroll by January 31st, 2018. The enrollment process is relatively painless, as the enrollment form is simple and basic.
Previously, when someone signed up for the TrustedID Premier, in the fine print it said, “In the terms of service is language that appears to bar those who enroll in an Equifax credit monitoring program from participating in any class-action lawsuits that may arise from the incident.”
If you had any trepidation about signing up for the program before due to the language, it is good to know that they altered it.
Is TrustedID enough to ensure your protection?
Some people believe that the TrustedID Premier coverage does not go far enough. Since the coverage is good for only one year, the bad guys could sit on the information until people forget all about the incident.
What can you do to help prevent this?
2. Request copies of your credit report.
You should request a copy of your Annual Credit Report, which you are entitled to receive once per year. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all share their credit reports on this government-authorized website. You have the ability to receive all three of the reports at the same time. You can also space them out throughout the year. While it is unlikely that the you’ll see any issues immediately due to the breach, you should become familiar with the process of checking your information.
3. Check your credit accounts.
Be vigilant and check your credit accounts at least weekly, especially with your credit cards. If you are lazy like me and you want to save time, you can utilize Personal Capital so that all of your accounts are accessible in one place.
4. Set up a credit freeze.
If an identity thief has your personal information, they may start opening up new accounts in your name. To put a stop on this, you can request a credit freeze to stop lenders from gaining access to your credit report.
If the lender does not have access to your credit report, they cannot open the new account, thus thwarting an identity thief from opening an account in your name.
However, freezing an account typically involves a fee. You can read about the fees for each state here. Please also be aware that you will need to do a credit freeze for each of the major bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Finally, you will need to lift the freeze each time you would like to open a new credit account.
If you follow these four steps, you can help protect yourself moving forward.