As additional government agencies have become involved in the Equifax breach, there have been a growing number of suggested actions for consumers to take in order to better protect themselves. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released various action items and links on their website www.consumer.ftc.gov to help consumers assess their vulnerability.
The FTC acknowledges that there were 143 million consumers affected, with the breach occurring between mid-May and July end. Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and some driver’s license numbers were stolen.
Equifax is offering a free credit monitoring service available at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. However, this service only applies to credit reports and data maintained by Equifax. Remember that there are two other major credit reporting companies that have consumer data, Experian and TransUnion. The FTC does suggest that consumers check all three credit reports for free via www.annualcreditreport.com. Keep in mind that this free service generates reports that do not include credit scores.
To determine if you are one of the 143 million affected, the Equifax website noted above allows you to enter your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number to determine if your data was compromised. There is a button labeled “potential impact” or “am I protected” which allows you to enter this information.
Placing a freeze on your credit files is a consideration, which makes it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name. It may also elongate the application process should you be running credit yourself for a legitimate reason.
If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your credit files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft and that they should closely verify anyone seeking credit in your name. The FTC also suggests to monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges that are not recognizable.
As we approach year end and a new tax filing season, the FTC is suggesting to file tax returns early. Filing a tax return earlier might avert a tax scammer from using your social security number to get a tax refund based on your information.
(Source: Federal Trade Commission; consumer.ftc.gov; The Equifax Breach: What To Do)