It’s been a little over a week since the big Equifax breach hit the news waves, and while the initial shock of scandal may have waned, the potential consequences are still very real and very scary. To sum it up, Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus was hacked –meaning the social security numbers, license numbers, and birth certificate information of approximately 143 million people were openly exposed and up for grabs. That means roughly 50 percent of the US population was affected—and finding out whether you fall into that statistic has proven more difficult than anticipated. In other words, even if you don’t explicitly know you were touched by this breach, you should still take precautions and take steps to prevent further vulnerability.
It’s a lot—I know. It’s jargon—I get it. Addressing the issue is not what you want to be doing with your limited free time. But it’s better to be proactive now, than reactive (and regretful) later. If you’ve been too overwhelmed to even start the seemingly daunting process of addressing the Equifax breach, fret not; Ive broken down the basic and initial steps into super simple and digestible tidbits. And, BTW, if it helps, I’m right here beside you every step of the way as one of those 143 mill...
Check Your Credit Report
The breach may have started as early as May—which means you’ve been vulnerable for months now. That’s why it’s important to review your credit report for any dubious activity. You can get a free annual report from all three major bureaus HERE.
Consider Freezing Your Credit
Guess what? If step one comes out clean, you’re still not in the clear. It just means hackers haven’t used your info—yet. Temporarily freezing your credit stops people from opening credit cards in your name. The only way to unfreeze credit is via a special pin—meaning you’re the only one who’ll actually able to do it.
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Go With a Fraud Alert
A fraud alert—which you can initiate through one of the three bureaus—requires credit card companies to verify your identify before opening an account. It only lasts for 90 days though—so stay on top of this and renew every three months.
Check the Tax Season Repercussions
It's still too early to know if and how the data exposed in Equifax's breach will be misused, but one major concern comes around during tax season. Identity thieves can use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and receive refunds. Later, when you file your actual taxes, the IRS will tell you you’ve already filed! So what can you do about this? First off, you can file early—I know, not exactly the good news you wanted to hear.
Monitor Your Finances and Up Your Security
If anything, this breach is a critical reminder to 1.) Be an active participant in your finances. You can’t just trust or assume that everything is status quo. Monitor your statements and keep records of everything; and 2.) Up your personal tech security. Be wary of entering personal details, or credit card info over certain online sites, and opt for second passwords, whenever possible.
This is not a sponsored post.