The latest big data breach is all over the news and you might be wondering what to do or how it may affect you.
Experts estimate that the Equifax data breach could affect up to 143 million U.S. consumers. Cybercrime is becoming more prolific and you need to protect yourself. We strongly suggest that you consider freezing your credit as a precaution. Contact each of the credit reporting agencies individually. Their contact information is:
- Equifax — 1-800-349-9960 or https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
- Experian — 1-888-397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
- TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872 or https://www.transunion.com/freeze
They will request your personal information and ask you to pay a small fee. This doesn’t apply to Equifax, however, who agreed to provide the freeze for free, since they were the target of the breach.
After they receive your freeze request, each agency will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place, as you will need it if you choose, for example, to lift the freeze to refinance your mortgage or take out an auto loan, etc.
By freezing your credit, you will block anyone from accessing your credit, which should prevent thieves from taking out credit cards in your name.
Take extra steps to protect your personal information
It’s important to note that freezing your credit will not prevent all identity theft. You may also want to consider subscribing to a trusted company that specializes in identity protection. For instance, LifeLock is currently offering a 10% discount in addition to a 30-day trial on their Identity Protection products.
Precaution is the best way to approach these uncertain times, and it is important to take control of what you can.
And be wary of scams connected to the Equifax breach. People have been calling consumers trying to trick them into giving them their personal information. Here are tips for recognizing imposter scams and what to do if you encounter one:
- Don’t give out personal information. Never provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct.
- Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
- If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. In most cases, pressing any number usually just leads to more robocalls.
- If you’ve already received a call that you think is fake, report it to the FTC.
If you gave your personal information to an imposter then it’s time to change any compromised passwords, account numbers or security questions. And if you’re concerned about identity theft, visit Consolidated Credit’s Identify Theft Guide to learn how you can protect yourself.