In late spring of 2017, hackers gained access to sensitive data from Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies in the U.S. This left approximately 143 million Americans' social security numbers, birth dates, and other personal information exposed. If you have a credit report, you have a higher risk of being among those affected by credit fraud, identity theft, and other harmful situations. Here are three crucial steps you need to take immediately to ensure that your information is secured:
1. First, you need to find out if your data was exposed. To do this, visit Equifax's security website and click on the "Am I impacted?" button. Enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number and hit submit. The site will immediately inform you whether you're at risk. However, it may be best to assume your information has been compromised just in case the online system is flawed.
2. If you do not want to participate in a credit freeze, you should consider placing a free credit fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert lets creditors know that you are a potential identity theft victim and that they should confirm your identity every time there is a credit request.
3. Staying on top of your account activity is essential. Look out for charges you don't recognize and other suspicious activity. Equifax offers a free year of credit monitoring services to those seeking extra assistance if they enroll on Equifax's security site before January 31st, 2018.
Cybercriminals can even use the information from the Equifax data breach to impersonate people such as creditors and service providers. Assume you are at risk and protect yourself from credit fraud by enrolling for credit monitoring services and remaining alert. Although no further information has leaked since the announcement, it is advised to take the proper measures to ensure the safety of your sensitive information.