You have likely read news reports about theft of 143 million records from Equifax in a cyber attack. The records maintained by Equifax , a credit bureau, includes personal and confidential information such as social security numbers, full names, addresses, dates of birth, driver's license numbers, and credit card numbers. There is a good chance information about you is now for sale or has been sold to criminals.
You need to watch out for the following things:
- Phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised;
- Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information;
- Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union; and,
- Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen
Here are 5 things you can do to prevent identity theft:
- First sign up for credit monitoring (there are many companies providing that service including Equifax but we cannot recommend you use them);
- Next freeze your credit files at the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Remember that generally it is not possible to sign up for credit monitoring services after a freeze is in place. Advice for how to file a freeze is available here on a state-by-state basis: http://consumersunion.org/research/security-freeze/;
- Check your credit reports via the free annualcreditreport.com;
- Check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity; and,
- If you believe you may have been the victim of identity theft, here is a site where you can learn more about how to protect yourself: www.idtheftcenter.org. You can also call the center's toll-free number (888-400-5530) for advice on how to resolve identify-theft issues. All of the center's services are free.
And as always, Think Before You Click!