Despite computer experts’ efforts to protect private information (for those living in the 21st century digital age), hackers take great pride in infiltrating computer systems with the sole objective to wreak havoc.
Unfortunately, these security measures do not always work. There are, however, steps a consumer can take to protect their digital identities now.
Equifax Inc. publicly disclosed a major breach of its computer system (impacting 143 million potential consumers) between May and July 2017. To give some perspective regarding how large the breach is, recognize that about a year ago, the U.S. population was 249 million for those most likely to maintain a credit file (18+ years old).
The recent security breach compromised sensitive information that includes:
- Birth Dates
- Social Security Numbers
- Potential driver’s license numbers
- Credit Card information for 209,000 credit card holders
- Personal information for another 182,000 consumers involved in an open dispute regarding any account
To protect yourself against the Equifax data breach, follow these suggestions:
#1: To remain vigilant regarding this matter, every consumer should confirm if his or her information has been a part of the current security breach. Consumers can check Equifax’s site EquifaxSecurity2017.com to see if they have been affected.
#2: Check your existing credit accounts for suspicious transactions, or the opening of new accounts; and continue to watch on a consistent basis. Even if your bank statements show no suspicious activity when you check, the accounts still may have been compromised.
#3: Consider a third-party service to monitor your credit 24 hours per day. Equifax now offers a free monitoring service but it does not include all the protections offered by the paid-for services. Monitor your credit wisely.
#4: Freeze your Accounts. Experts advise that freezing accounts with the three repositories of Equifax, Experian and Transunion is a safe way to protect yourself when compared to a credit monitoring service. However, it is important to note that there are costs to freezing your credit or lifting a freeze on your credit.
But a freeze isn’t a step to undertake lightly as it impacts the cardholder’s ability to use them as well. Remember to contact the credit bureaus that you would like to lift the freeze, should you need to refinance your mortgage.
Be cautious, aware and smart! Use the tools available to protect yourself from future security breaches.