Credit-reporting bureau Equifax announced last week that 143 million Americans were affected by a hack of their database. This is huge. Half of America huge. Even if you are not a customer of Equifax, they still have your information as they are a reporting bureau and there is a very good chance your identity is at risk.
It was reported that names, addresses, birthdates, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and roughly 209,000 credit card numbers were lifted. Although the attackers are unknown, the damage they can cause is massive. Possibilities include maxing out existing credit accounts and opening new ones (think auto loans and beyond), stolen tax refunds, or fake IDs leading to warrants for your arrest.
Before you panic, do the following:
1. Check your credit with Equifax (yes, it is ironic), TransUnion or Experian. You are entitled to a free report from each bureau each year.
2. Fraud alert your credit by contacting one of the three credit reporting bureaus. This is free and good for 90 days.
3. Keep your eyes on your bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity.
4. Sign up for credit monitoring. Equifax is offering a free year of credit monitoring, although it is uncertain if the terms of service bar the user from entering a class action lawsuit over the 2017 data breach. According to ConsumerAdvocate.org, the three top ranked Credit Monitoring Services are Identity Guard, IdentityForce and Experian. For those who have already fallen victim, the government has built IdentityTheft.gov to help recover from identity theft.
5. If you have been hacked, freeze your credit accounts. A freeze blocks all unauthorized access to your credit reports. There is a fee to freeze, which is typically $5-10.
Don’t let this cyber-attack thwart you from living your life. We do want you to be cautious, especially when it comes to your credit. If you have any questions about how this could affect your financing for a home, please contact one of our agents.