The giant financial story in the news the last couple of weeks is one that should concern you. Equifax, one of the major credit bureaus suffered a significant data hack. Why is this a big deal? In addition to having all of your credit account numbers, Equifax also has your personal information. Your address. Your driver’s license number. Your Social Security number. Basically, the hackers may have access to everything they need to apply for credit in your name. And Equifax isn’t something you needed to opt into to potentially be victimized. If you’ve ever applied for credit of any sort—including utility accounts and student loans—you likely have a credit record with Equifax. And you should definitely check to see if you may have been included in the hacked data.
Equifax has set up a site here where you can enter your information and find out if your data was included in the breach. If it was, you can get a year of free credit monitoring by signing up with Trusted ID Premiere through the Equifax-provided link. But I’ll be honest with you…I signed up a week ago and haven’t received any confirmation that this went through. The reality is that Equifax is overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the requests. And I’m not sure that I want to depend on Equifax, the company that leaked my data, to turn around and protect that same data. I’m actually considering signing up for a paid credit monitoring service for myself. Somehow it seems worthwhile at this point to have the equivalent of an insurance policy on my credit.
There are some things you can do on your own to secure your data. The free credit monitoring offered by Equifax is one option. But you can also add a credit freeze to your credit reports. The freeze would make it so no requests for credit for you can go through without your unlocking the freeze with that credit bureau. And it’s also a good idea for you to check your credit reports at least once a year. You can get a free copy from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once a year at http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
But please be aware that checking up on your credit is not a “once and done” kind of thing. In data breach situations like this, the hackers are likely to sit on your data for a few years before actually using it to their benefit (and your detriment). So now is the time for you to make a habit of looking at your credit with some regularity. I’m sure this data breach will not be the last. And it seems each one is more horrifying than the previous one. Take care of your financial health. Watch (or insure) your credit!