In a recently revealed breach, 143 million Americans may have had their personal information exposed.
Equifax, one of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies, reported a massive data breach lasting several months. Hackers were able to access people's names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver's license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers of 209,000 people and dispute documents containing personally identifying information of 182,000 people.
If you have any type of credit product such as a credit card or mortgage, there's a good chance your information has been compromised. It's best to learn all you can about this data breach and take the proper steps toward protecting yourself against future damage.
Here at Freedom Credit Union we want to offer you steps to consider regarding this situation.
1) Monitor and Protect Your Accounts
|Lost or Stolen ATM/Debit Card||(413) 739-6961 or (800) 821-0160|
|Lost or Stolen ATM/Debit Card (after hrs)||(800) 264-5578|
|Lost or Stolen VISA Credit Card||(800) 558-3424|
2) Sign up for free protective services
All U.S. consumers are being offered a year of complimentary credit monitoring and other services through the Equifax's TrustedID product. Be warned, though, that the fine print of this service comes with a catch. The terms of service agreement states that enrollees must employ arbitration over civil courts to settle disputes. You may, however, decide that the benefits offered by this service far outweigh its negative fallout.
3) Place a credit freeze or a fraud alert on your files
If your information has been exposed, consider placing a credit freeze on your credit bureaus. This will make it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name, though it won't stop a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Or, instead of a freeze, you can place a fraud alert on your files, warning creditors that you may have been victimized by identity theft. This alerts them to verify if someone seeking credit in your name is really you. Even if your information was not exposed by the breach, it's always a good idea to monitor your credit card and financial accounts for charges you don't recognize.
4) File your taxes early
If your SSN was accessed in the Equifax breach, it's best to file your taxes as soon as you possibly can to avoid tax theft come tax time. Also, be sure to respond immediately to any letters you receive from the IRS.
5) Monitor your credit report annually
Every year, you are entitled by law to a free credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228 for more information.