How You Can Protect Your Credit And Guard Against The Equifax Breach

So, you’ve probably heard, Equifax messed up…

Now most of us have to worry about identity theft. Great…

THE SKINNY

If you haven’t heard, here is a quick recap.

From May through July of this year Equifax experienced a “data breach” (uh, they were hacked) and the information from at least 143 million people was stolen. This may include your name, social security number, birth date, driver’s license number, etc.

Equifax is one of the big three credit bureaus that collects massive amounts of information on US citizens and uses that information to calculate a credit score.

Your credit score is used for a multitude of things ranging from buying a home, opening a credit card, or even applying for a job (yes, employers sometimes check your credit score as a part of the hiring process).

So, if you are just hearing about this, pay attention; it’s a big deal.

THE RISKS

Now that hackers have stolen large amounts of personal data, it is likely to fall into the hands of identity thieves. Hackers will often sell information to individuals who use it for criminal purposes.

These people will then use your stolen data to open false accounts under your name, racking up debt along the way and causing you a lot of headaches.

In severe cases people have had their credit reports ruined so badly that they can no longer apply for any type of loan and get denied for anything requiring a credit inquiry until they get it resolved.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Stop, drop, and roll! Wait, I think that’s for something else…

You may have already read some articles telling you to check your credit report and then to monitor it on a regular basis by getting a free report every 3 or so months from a different agency.

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to spend my time cycling through a new agency each quarter and combing through my credit report. Personally, I like to automate as much as I can and delegate work.

Enter LifeLock!

For years I’ve been a subscriber to LifeLock and I highly recommend it to anyone I work with.

For a monthly fee, LifeLock will monitor your credit report, social security number, and other accounts and will notify you if there is any activity.

If you aren’t already a member of a credit-monitoring agency like LifeLock, get on it!

Some will complain about the fee. My response is that the fee you pay to protect your credit is miniscule in comparison to the headache and lost opportunities you will incur if you are the victim of identity theft. Just think of it as another form of mandatory insurance you have to sign up for.

If you still aren’t sure, go ahead and look up nightmare stories about identity theft. Some people spend YEARS trying to get things straightened out. And during that entire time, they are locked out of doing all the things for which a good credit score is needed.

WHAT MORE CAN YOU DO?

On top of signing up for a credit-monitoring service, there are a number of things you can do to help protect yourself.

  • Go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the “potential impact” tab to search and see if you were affected.
  • Think about placing a credit freeze on your files. Placing a freeze on your credit makes it harder for thieves to open up new accounts in your name. However, be sure you aren’t planning to open any new accounts in the near future; there are a few steps to remove the freeze before you can open new accounts again.
  • Place a fraud alert on your files. This will flag your files so if there is an attempt to open new accounts, creditors will be warned to verify that it’s you trying to open the accounts.
  • File your taxes early. One of the things identity thieves do when they have your info is file a tax return on your behalf before you get a chance. They then receive any refund you were owed. Once you go to file your taxes, the IRS rejects the tax filing because you “already filed.”

So make sure you immediately file your taxes when you get all of the necessary paperwork. And if you receive any letters from the IRS, respond immediately.

The data breach at Equifax is definitely a big deal. Hopefully, you won’t be affected by what happened, but don’t just cross your fingers. Take action to protect your identity and your future!

Capably Yours,

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10 Tools to Simplify Your Financial Life
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