The Equifax Credit Breach: What You Can Do to Protect Your Information
There are a number of steps you can take to determine if you are affected by the Equifax credit breach, including:
- Visit the Equifax website.
- Visit the other credit report company websites, including Experian, and TransUnion. One site with which you can access all of your credit reports is annualcreditreport.com. Check for any account activity that could be associated with an identity theft.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission webpage set up especially for the Equifax Credit Breach.
- Freeze your credit accounts. This will make it more difficult for someone to open up an account in your name.
- Check your existing credit and bank accounts frequently for changes you don’t recognize.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit accounts. This would warn creditors that your identity has been stolen and obligate them to find out that the person seeking credit under your name is truly you.
- File your taxes early before someone who has stolen your identity does to prevent them from getting your tax refund.
Retirees Should Take Some Extra Precautions
People who have retired actually have additional concerns. Financial advisors suggest that freezing accounts makes sense for retirees, but argue that fraud alerts are worthless. Too much time has passed since the breach, giving any thief plenty of opportunity to empty a bank account or adversely affect someone’s credit score. Basically, a fraud alert would be too little, too late.
Advisors also note that if a retiree had relied on a comprehensive fraud and identity theft monitoring service like LifeLock, then he or she would have been notified of the breach and the service would take steps to protect his or her identity.
Identity theft monitoring companies offer a daily analysis of all accounts, including fraudulent transactions from opening new, unauthorized accounts to evidence of identity theft on the dark web. The dark web is a network of Internet sites requiring special software configuration to access, and is often used by people with less than good intentions.
Identity theft experts also encourage retirees to check and then continue closely monitoring their social security account, as identity thieves could contact the Social Security Administration and modify mailing addresses so that benefits are sent to them, instead.