Equifax, one of three credit monitoring bureaus, performed a final analysis of the leak that determined 145.5 million consumers were potentially impacted. Hackers gained access to the personal information of these consumers. Much of this information can be used for credit and loan review. Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses were all exposed. The sheer volume of consumers potentially affected means no American can be considered safe from the breach. Each American must do their due diligence to protect themselves from fraud and theft.
Freedom Financial Network recommends everyone assume they were affected due to the high volume of people at risk Freedom Financial Network wants to help you feel safe with your financials so we wrote this post on how you could protect yourself against the Equifax leak.
Check your Credit Reports
The federal government ensures that each citizen receives a free credit report from each of the credit monitoring bureaus once a year. This tool is especially useful after a leak to check for any mistakes or unrecognizable loans/credit cards on your report. Thoroughly review your report from each bureau and report any errors immediately. Freedom Financial Network says you could use sites like AnnualCreditReport.com.
Be Wary at Tax Time
Many hackers sit on stolen information with the intention of using it during tax season. Hackers use the information to file fraudulent returns in order to claim your refund. File your taxes as early as possible this year to protect against fraud. If you know your identity has been stolen get an identity protection pin from the IRS.
Freeze Your Credit
Creditors review credit when approving a line of credit. When you place a credit freeze, creditors won’t be able to see your credit history. This means they will not issue any credit cards. Someone with your stolen information will not be able to open a line of credit. The downside is if you do need new credit you will have to unfreeze your credit first.
After a big leak like this, Freedom Financial Network recommends changing passwords. Use random password generators to create a password that can’t be easily guessed. Change bank account passwords to prevent hackers from having access. Consider using a secure password management service if you have too many important passwords to keep track of.
Report Fraudulent Activity
Credit cards have great protection against fraudulent activity. They key is notifying the creditor as soon as possible. For the next few months, review your credit activity frequently and dispute all unrecognized charges. The fraud monitoring department will take the necessary steps to prevent additional fraudulent activity.
Freedom Financial Network knows leaks like this can create fear and confusion, but with due diligence, you could put your mind at ease.