Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies announced on September 7, 2017 that 143 million American consumers personal information was exposed in a data breach.  According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July.  Names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers were compromised.  Credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about  182,000 people was stolen.

Equifax as established a dedicated website – www.equifaxsecurity2017.com for consumers to determine if their information was accessed.

Steps you can take to help protect your personal information from being misused:

  • Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.  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 are on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it.  The site will let you know if you have been affected by the breach.
  • Whether or not your information was compromised, consumers can receive a year of free credit monitoring.  The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll.  Write down the date and go back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date.  You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.

Other steps you can take to help to protect yourself:

  • Visit annualcreditreport.com to receive your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion .  Activity or accounts that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft.  Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your account.  A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name.  Keep in mind that a credit freeze will not prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your account.  A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • Carefully review your existing credit card and deposit accounts for suspicious or fraudulent activity.
  • File your taxes early. As soon as you have the tax information that you need, before a scammer can.  Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your social security number to get a tax refund.  Respond immediately to any letters from the IRS.