Last month, we learned that over half of the United States’ adult population was affected by the Equifax data breach. The breach lasted around six weeks – between mid-May through the end of July – and the hackers received access to people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and some driver’s license numbers. More than 200,000 credit card numbers were also stolen.
- Check Credit Reports: You are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It’s important to request a report from all three each year and verify the accuracy of your accounts and activity. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to access your free reports, and visit IdentityTheft.gov for more information on how to report identity theft.
- Credit Freeze: If you’re worried about new accounts being opened in your name, consider placing a credit freeze on your files. This prevents access to your reports and limits inquiries that are required to open new accounts. This may cost money and does not protect against fraud on previously opened accounts. For more information on credit freezes, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Credit Freeze FAQ page .
- Monitor your Existing Accounts: Verify that any and all activity on each of your credit, bank, and loan accounts was authorized by you. If you believe your account may have been compromised or have a question about activity, call the company that manages the account.
- Place a Fraud Alert: This is an alternative to a credit freeze. By placing fraud alerts on your files, creditors are made aware that you may be a victim of identity theft. While they can still receive a copy of your credit report, they must take the necessary steps to verify your identity whenever a credit inquiry is made. For more information on fraud alerts, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s page .
- File Taxes Immediately: Because scammers may try to file taxes or apply for a job in your name, it may be beneficial to file your taxes as soon as you have received all of the necessary paperwork. It is also important to promptly respond to any letters from the IRS, and verify that any correspondence from the IRS is legitimate.