On September 7, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting companies, announced that they had been hacked. Sometime between mid-May and July hackers exploited a vulnerability in their website in order to gain the personal information of about 143 million people.
The hackers got people’s names, social security numbers, birth dates, home addresses, and some drivers license information. They also got credit card information for about 209,000 consumers and dispute documents containing personal information for 182,000 people.
Was Your Information Compromised?
Equifax will send you a letter if your credit card information or dispute documents were released. However, you will not be notified if you were one of the millions whose other information was exposed. Because of the magnitude of the breach, you need to check their website yourself to find out if your information was included in the hack.
You can check to see if your information was included by following this link. You will need to provide them with your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number. Many people have questioned the website’s reliability after receiving inconsistent results. Because of this, it may be safest to just assume your information was compromised.
What Is Equifax Doing About It?
Equifax found out about the hack on July 29 and announced it publicly on September 7. They are now offering an enrollment in TrustedID Premier, a credit monitoring service, for anyone regardless of whether they believe your information was impacted or not. Enrollment in the program ends November 21, 2017.
One important thing to be aware of is that if you enroll in their program you waive your right to sue. If there is a class action lawsuit against them you will not be able to participate or receive any potential settlement.
What Can You Do About It?
There are several things you can do.
Monitor Your Credit
You can monitor your credit by signing up for Equifax’s program, purchasing your own credit monitoring service, or by doing it yourself. If you choose to do it yourself, you can get your annual free credit report from freecreditreport.com. Check your credit report regularly for signs of identity theft. Sometimes the theft will not happen until months after the data breach.
Place A Fraud Alert On Your Credit Report
You can place a fraud alert on your credit report at experian.com. At the bottom of the page, under the Support tab, just click on Fraud Alert and follow the instructions. At the end, they will let you review your credit report. Review it carefully and make sure everything on it is legitimate.
Watch For Signs Of Identity Theft
The Federal Trade Commission offers these signs that someone has stolen your identity:
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
- You don’t get your bills or other mail.
- Merchants refuse your checks.
- Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
- You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
- Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
- A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
- You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
Freeze Your Credit
Freezing your credit locks your file so that potential lenders cannot see it. That way, if someone tries to open a line of credit in your name, the lender should refuse since they don’t have access to your credit.
This is probably not a good idea for you if you are an active borrower. You would have to unfreeze your credit each time you wanted to borrow. It costs money to freeze your credit and also to unfreeze it. The fee varies by state (Indiana is free!) and is usually around $10 per report (there are 3 major reporting companies, so 3 reports). Whether or not you can freeze your children’s reports also varies by state.
If you don’t borrow money or aren’t planning on taking out any new loans, this might be a good idea for you. Here is a blog post that walks you through the entire process for each credit reporting agency.
Get Identity Theft Insurance
Another option is to purchase identity theft insurance. A good plan goes beyond credit monitoring and helps you clean up your credit in case you do fall victim. They also help cover any costs involved.
Why I’m Not Worried
I’m not worried about identity theft. Even after having my laptop stolen last year, I am at peace. Why? First of all, I have identity theft insurance. They not only monitor my credit, but they will clean up the mess if I ever find myself in one.
Does my insurance guarantee that my information is safe? Not at all! I’ll bet my information (and most other people’s) is compromised on a regular basis. But there’s not really anything I can do about it. I have taken the preventive measures I can and now all I can do is trust God. Because no matter how smart or evil the hackers get, God is still in control.
So I don’t have to worry. No matter what this world can throw at me, I know God has always got my back. And I have better things to do with my time than worry. Don’t you?