We’ve just experienced possibly the most critical data breach of all time. Equifax, Inc. recently revealed that it was the victim of a cyberattack, exposing the sensitive credit information of 143 million Americans. This includes everything from full names to Social Security numbers, making it easy for hackers to run a public search on almost anyone. In addition, around 209,000 people have had their credit card numbers leaked. People all over the nation are panicking about the possibility of identity theft and credit fraud that may result from this Equifax data breach.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
Look Up Your Credit Report
The first thing you should do is check your credit report. You’re entitled to three reports, at no cost to you, per year. Be sure to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and take note of anything that seems suspicious or unusual. If any data is incorrect, dispute it as soon as possible. You should also set up a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report. It takes just a few minutes to enable and you’ll automatically be alerted if someone tries to apply for credit under your name.
Run A Background Check On Yourself
Aside from your credit report, you should see if someone is using your name to commit other acts. A public search can reveal your address history, previous and current phone numbers, aliases, owned properties, and licenses. However, it can also pull up arrest and criminal records. You definitely want to check and see if there is questionable activity under your name, then take action if necessary.
Freeze Your Credit
Just because a thief hasn’t yet tried to steal your identity as a result of this Equifax data breach doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Your credit can be destroyed if a hacker opens a credit card in your name several years from now. This means you can be denied for a mortgage, car payment, or other loan that requires decent credit. And this doesn’t even include all the time, effort, and money it’s going to take to repair your credit score. If you freeze your credit, your credit report will not change until you decide to unfreeze it. If you want to open up a new line of credit, you have to use a PIN to allow the application to go through. Freezing your credit allows you to protect your credit score and keep other people from opening things in your name.
Although these three methods are the most common, best practice would be to contact a representative of a major credit bureau or credit monitoring service to find out more information. You can reach out to bank representatives for advice about the Equifax data breach as well. No matter which method(s) you choose, be sure to stay vigilant when it comes to sensitive and important data like your credit score. Minimize the risks and take action today.
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