The following is a guest blog post:
Equifax made big news this fall after suffering one of the biggest data breaches in history. More than 143 million consumers had their personal information exposed. Names, addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers are among the types of information. With this information, there’s a huge risk for identity theft. Freedom Debt Relief has advice you can use to protect yourself from the aftermath of the Equifax data breach.
Learn whether you were impacted. Equifax has created a website for consumers to find out whether their information may have been compromised in the data breach. Visit EquifaxSecurity2017.com to see if your information was exposed. Watch out for imposter websites and be careful to enter the web address correctly. Don’t enter any personal information into suspicious websites, advises Freedom Debt Relief.
Get free credit monitoring. In response to the data breach, Equifax is also offering one year of free credit monitoring through the website mentioned above. All consumers are able to take advantage of the free credit monitoring, whether they were affected or not. Consumers can also use other free credit monitoring apps to keep track of their credit history with the other two credit bureaus.
Check your credit report. The weeks between the time of the breach and the time that Equifax alerted the public was more than enough time for thieves to use the stolen information to open up fraudulent accounts. Freedom Debt Relief recommends all consumers who were affected to check all three of their credit reports to determine whether their information has already been used to commit identity theft. You can check all three of your credit reports for free by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Review your credit reports for any accounts that you didn’t open.
Report fraudulent accounts. If you’ve found fraudulent accounts on your credit report, you should take steps to get these accounts removed to avoid more damage to your credit report. Report the accounts to the credit bureau, noting that you did not open these accounts. Then, contact the creditors to have the accounts closed. You may need a police report and identity theft affidavit to prove the accounts aren’t yours. Keep copies of these documents in case you need to deal with future instances of identity theft, advises Freedom Debt Relief.
Freeze your credit report. Placing a security freeze on your credit report is the most effective way to prevent identity theft. The security freeze locks your credit report so that businesses cannot review your credit history to approve accounts therefore preventing thieves from opening accounts in your name. You should place the freeze with all three credit bureaus since you cannot predict with bureau a company will use to approve the application. You’ll have to temporarily unlock your credit reports when you’re ready to make any credit-related applications.
File your taxes early. Tax identity theft has increased in recent years. Thieves can use stolen information to file a tax return in your name, warns Freedom Debt Relief. This prevents you from filing your own tax return. The IRS recommends workers file their taxes as soon as possible to prevent identity thieves from doing so.
The Equifax data breach can affect consumers for years to come. It’s important to monitor your credit often to catch and deal with suspicious accounts before they have time to cause serious damage to your credit.