Late last week, Equifax, one of the country’s major credit reporting agencies, reported that sensitive data for nearly 143 million Americans was exposed in a major data breach. The breach lasted from mid-May through July, and hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
What Should I Do?
- Find out if your information was exposed. Visit http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
- Read your monthly statements carefully. Review bank, credit card, and pay statements, as well as other important personal accounts (e.g., health care, social security). If a statement has mistakes, charges you don’t recognize, or doesn’t arrive when expected, contact the business.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
- Review your credit report every year. You can request a free annual credit report.
- Protect your online accounts. Create strong passwords or passphrases that are at least eight characters long and include a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use the same password or passphrase for multiple accounts.
- Stay ahead of the hackers. Check the Have I been pwned website to see if your accounts were hacked in any other known attacks.
More details on this breach and steps you should take to keep yourself safe can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s web site.