Protecting Yourself After The Equifax Hack

Another day, another information breach.  Ho hum, right?  No.  This one is different.  Equifax estimates that identifying information for 143 million people has been hacked from their website.  Chances are, it includes you.  Even if you went to their website and it says it didn’t affect you, it’s time to start taking steps to protect yourself.

In the past, we have advised you to freeze your credit if your identity was stolen.  This time, the information that was stolen is enough that a person could unlock your credit without you knowing.  Those of us with frozen credit aren’t in the habit of checking it, so they could do a lot of damage before you find out.

You can notify one credit bureau that you want a fraud alert placed on your account, and they will notify the others.  Here is where to go for Transunion.  Here is the site for Experian.  We’ll just figure Equifax has done enough damage already and leave them off the list.  Put a reminder on your calendar to do new fraud alerts every 90 days. 

I still suggest that you get a free credit report here  You can get one from each of the three credit bureaus every year.  So get one today from one, get one in four months from another, and get another from the third four months after that.  You won’t have to pay anything, and you’ll be monitoring your credit on a consistent basis.

If you want to pay someone to do this for you, this is what companies like Lifelock are for.

Go here and create an account for yourself.  Make a note in a safe place of the information you used and your password.  This will stop someone from going in to the IRS records, getting your tax returns and doing mischief with them.

Finally, I have set up my bank account so that I receive an alert anytime money is taken out of my checking or savings account, or a charge is made on my credit card.  This was very easy to do online.

It’s important to note that you need to be vigilant about all this forever.  Equifax is offering credit monitoring for only one year.  My identity was stolen four years ago, and I still get notices every few months that someone is trying to open credit in my name.  Once your information is out there, you can’t get it back.

Irritated that you are caught in this web?  Welcome to the club.  If you visited the Equifax site and it says that you weren’t affected, don’t heave too big a sigh of relief, it’s only a matter of time.  Once you’ve taken the steps above, get another coffee and write an email to your Congressperson letting them know your opinion of the current system.  These credit bureaus collect amazing amounts of information about us, we have no control over what they do with it, and now it turns out they didn’t keep it secure.  It’s not like we can go out and get a new social security number.  It’s time for Congress to take a look at this issue and make some rules to protect us.  Here’s where you can go to find an email address for your member of Congress.  And here’s where you can find contact information for your senators.

As always, feel free to call us if you have any questions!