143 million people may have had their Social Security numbers and other identity data stolen from Equifax—one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. You may be a victim. Here’s what to do:
Your Equifax Hacking Defense
SET UP CREDIT ALERTS
Request all three US credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to let you know immediately if anyone else is using your name to apply for credit. It’s a good idea to make sure you get fraud alerts from your banks or credit unions, as well.
SIGN UP FOR CREDIT FREEZES
Request a credit freeze from each of the three reporting bureaus. This will ensure that only companies who already have you as a customer will have access to your credit reports. A thief with your Social Security number (and/or other personal info) will then be unable to apply for credit in your name.
Equifax credit freeze info
(Please note: If you have trouble getting through wait a few days and try again.)
Online: Equifax security freeze
By phone: Call: 1-800-685-1111. (NY residents call: 1-800-349-9960)
By certified mail: Use this form letter. Mail to: Equifax Security Freeze, PO Box 105788, Atlanta GA 30348
Experian credit freeze info
Online: Experian security freeze
By phone: Call: 1-888-397-3742. When calling, press 2, then follow prompts.
By certified mail: Use this form letter. Mail to: Experian Security Freeze, PO Box 9554, Allen TX 75013
CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORTS PERIODICALLY
Every US citizen is entitled to get one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. Check one of these reports every four months so you can catch any dirty work as early as possible. It’s probably best to make this a habit, because we can expect more such breaches in the future.
CONSIDER EQUIFAX CREDIT MONITORING
Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring, but this may may not be a such good idea. Readers of the offer say that “in the terms of service is language that appears to bar those who enroll in an Equifax credit monitoring program from participating in any class-action lawsuits that may arise from the incident,” according to The Washington Post. Equifax has indicated that they may forego the class-action lawsuit provision; it might be best to see if they follow through before signing up.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
• nytimes.com - Basis of this article
• clark.com - How to freeze your credit
• latimes.com - Different aspects of story
• nytimes.com - Questions and problems NY Times readers have had trying to deal with Equifax
• washingtonpost.com - Includes info about Equifax’s free year of credit monitoring