This vlog explains what actions you can take to protect your credit in the aftermath of the Equifax data breach.
IMAGE: Jessica Brown is seated in front of a white wall and gives information using American Sign Language.
TRANSCRIPT: There’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers from about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. They also grabbed personal information of people from the UK and Canada as well. It’s unclear what exactly the hackers did with the data during those months. There are some steps to take in order to help protect your information from being misused. Step 1:
Enroll in Equifax program, or you can move on to Step 2 if you do not trust Equifax. Equifax’s identity protection program Trusted ID is being offered to anyone who wants to enroll. The program is designed to help prevent identity theft and tampering with your credit. If you’re willing to give Equifax another chance you can sign up for the program here but be aware the checker that lets you know if you were hacked might be broken and enrolling in the program prevents you from participating in a class action lawsuit against Trusted ID, but that doesn’t prevent you from participating in lawsuits related to the cyber attack. Because of these circumstances we recommend that for now anyone with a credit history should assume they were affected by the hack. Step 2: Check your credit reports. More than three months passed between the time the breach may have started and right now we are not sure if the data of those affected was used maliciously during that period so consider looking through your credit reports for any suspicious activity. The US government guarantees everyone a free annual credit report from the three major bureaus and that includes Experian. When looking through your reports keep an eye out for new accounts that you did not open, late payments on debts you don’t recognize, and any other activity that looks unfamiliar. If you suspect someone used your identity to open credit cards, take on loans, or reopen closed accounts, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately. Step 3: Freeze your credit. It’s still pretty early so even if your credit report comes back clean remain vigilant about protecting your credit. One of the most reliable ways to prevent someone from opening credit cards in your name is to place what’s called a credit freeze. When you freeze your credit you or anyone masquerading as you will be required to unfreeze your account by providing the pin you got when you froze your credit. To freeze your credit contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers. The process is usually automated and can be completed within a few minutes, so be sure to write down your pins and place them in a secure location. Step 4: Set up a fraud alert. A fraud alert is another way to make it hard for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When a fraud alert is set credit card companies will be required to verify your identity before opening an account. That combined with the credit freeze is a great way to keep your credit secured. To set a fraud alert just contact one of the credit card bureaus and ask for an initial fraud alert. Once that alert is set it will last for 90 days. After that you’ll have to renew it the phone numbers for each of the bureaus will be shown at the end of this video. Watch out for tax season. 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 tax season. Identity thieves can use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and receive refunds. Many victims find out they have been targeted with tax fraud when they try to file their taxes the IRS tells them that their taxes were already filed. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to file early. For more the IRS has an easy-to-follow guide on tax fraud. Thank you for watching.
Text at the end of the video: to freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers: