Just this month of September, one of the most significant data breaches in recent history has been disclosed by Equifax, which is a credit reporting agency. According to them, the information of about 143 million consumers has been compromised, including their Social Security numbers. The breach also included the consumers names, addresses, birth dates and driver’s license numbers.
While this is indeed a very alarming news, in return, Equifax offered free services to people like free credit monitoring. Equifax said that the breach happened from the middle of May through July. However, it was only discovered on July 29. People have trusted companies like Equifax when it comes to money matters but because of what happened, the incident most negative reactions for the company.
The free services offered by Equifax like free credit monitoring is just considered as a band-aid solution. To begin with, these breaches should never happen and companies should be paying more attention and should be taking data breach more seriously. But what’s done is done and all the company could do was just to apologize and take more stringent measures to avoid the same from happening.
As a consumer, here are some of the most important things you can do to mitigate possible damages that this breach may have caused.
1. Take time to check if your information may also be potentially at risk
There is a website that Equifax has set up so that consumers can check if their information was compromised. When you go to this website, you can click on the tab labeled “Potential Impact” then you will be required to enter your name and the last six digits of your social security number. However, even if this method will tell you that your information is not compromised, you still need to be diligent. And even if you don’t notice anything wrong with your credit reports, it does not mean that you have not been compromised.
2. Sign up for Equifax’s credit monitoring
Since Equifax already announced that they are offering free credit monitoring to all the consumers in the US, it would be better if you sign up, whether or not your information has been compromised. It is something you can take advantage because it is free and the sign up process is relatively easy. There are five separate services that you can find under Equifax’s credit monitoring program. You can find the one that will suit your needs by clicking on a link labeled “TrustedIDPremier”.
3. Freeze your credit lines
In times like this when data breaches happen, you need to take advantage of your chance to freeze your credit. This way, you can make sure that nobody else will be able to apply for a loan or credit card.
But if the time comes when you need to apply for a mortgage or a credit card, then you will have to unfreeze your credit line first. Taking this action is much safer compared to the credit card monitoring. The information you will be asked when you freeze your credit line will be the same information that will be asked from you the moment you decide to unfreeze it.
4. Continue to monitor your accounts
Let’s say you have religiously followed these steps. You still have to make sure that you continually monitor your accounts so that you can observe if there will be any fraudulent activity. The downside of incidents like this is that the damage can no longer be undone because once the information have been out and compromised; it will no longer be possible to take them back. However, it teaches every consumer a lesson to make sure that they keep an eye on their financial lives.
After all, at the end of the day, no one else will care about your money as much as you do. That’s why as early as possible, take some necessary steps to secure your finances like setting up online alerts for your bank accounts and credit card.
But what if your identity was stolen?
Many of the Americans had their personal information compromised during the breach, but if you are one of the unlucky ones whose identity was stolen, here are some steps that you should do next.
- Stay calm and do not panic.
- Take steps to file identity theft report by going to the website IdentityTheft.gov.
- Freeze your credit lines and put a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Submit a written request to shut down fraudulent accounts.
- Submit a dispute if you find anything fraudulent on your credit card report.
- Be willing to go through the long and tedious process because you will get through it and it will be all worth it in the end.