Last week, the credit reporting agency Equifax revealed that nearly 143 million Americans were affected by a massive security breach that put personal information, such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s licenses, into the hands of hackers.
Now the threat of what can happen with the stolen information has half the U.S. population worried. In this post, we highlight the threats that consumers now face and steps to take to help ensure that you don’t become a victim to further criminal activity.
Associated Threats Of The Equifax Hack
Because Social Security numbers don’t change, the information that was stolen will likely circulate on the black market for years to come – meaning those affected by the breach could become a victim of identity theft at any time in the future.
Identity theft is a serious crime that could impact your life for the worst. With such highly sensitive information, a criminal might do any of the following:
Gain access to your financial accounts.
Open credit lines.
Open bank accounts.
Start a business in your name.
File fraudulent tax returns.
Steal your Social Security benefits.
You could even end up with a criminal record if the person who stole your identity uses your information upon being arrested themselves.
Who Can You Trust?
In the wake of the hack, Equifax has created a website in which you can enter your last name and last six digits of your social security number to find out if you were affected by the hack.
However, with this, the company has come under some scrutiny. Apparently, some have tested the system, using random names and social security numbers, to determine accuracy and have received different outcomes.
Equifax’s system seems to direct concerned consumers to enrolling in their free credit monitoring program, TrustedID Premier – to which some are arguing is a ploy to get people to sign up so they can then pitch them on paying for the service after the free year is over.
Moreover, checking to see if you were affected via Equifax’s website might mean that you’d be barred from suing the company.
What You Need To Do Now
Having multiple layers of protection is going to be your best bet for ensuring your security. Make sure you’re not relying on only one means of protection.
1. Check Your Accounts For Fraudulent Activity
You should be monitoring your bank and credit card statements frequently. Check for any signs of fraud.
Hackers count on people failing to check their accounts because it makes it easier for them to get away with criminal activity.
But if you’re checking your accounts every day or at least every week, you can potentially spot a problem before it becomes a bigger issue.
2. Set Up Credit Monitoring
You might not want to use Equifax’s free credit monitoring service and that’s understandable.
Other options include LifeLock, Credit Karma, and MyFico.
Note that credit monitoring will help prevent criminals from opening new accounts but it will not stop them from accessing existing accounts.
3. Freeze Your Credit Files At The Major Credit Bureaus
A credit freeze will prevent anyone from accessing your credit reports without your permission. If you wanted to open a line of credit, you’d have to contact the reporting agencies to lift the freeze temporarily.
4. Stay Vigilant With Cybersecurity
Basic cybersecurity measures cannot be enforced enough. Consider it good hygiene of the Digital Age. Without taking these precautions, you’re essentially setting yourself up to be the victim of another hack.
For more information how to protect yourself and your family from the worst parts of the Internet, see our post: 8 Simple Steps for Personal Cybersecurity in 2017
Take some time to implement these security measures today.