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How to protect yourself from the Equifax hack

Posted on November 7, 2017

Equifax, one of three major American credit bureaus, confirmed that hackers obtained potentially problematic consumer information including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, even drivers’ license numbers.

“On a scale of 1 to 10,” stated New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to the House Financial Services Committee in hearings last month, this is a 10 in terms of potential identity theft.”

What can you do to shield yourself from a possible misuse of your personal information?

“Don’t wait and see,” say Teipen, Selanders, Poynter & Ayres CPAs. Be proactive. Take action.”

 Here’s what you can do right now:

  • First, check with Equifax to see if your personal info was stolen at https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. You can also call 866-447-7559 for more information or to ask questions.
  • Next, whether or not your information has been stolen, take action. Identity theft involving social security numbers and dates of birth are the two most important pieces of identity used by hackers. The information can be used to establish fraudulent accounts in your name tomorrow, next month or years from now.
  • Request a credit freeze from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to ensure that hackers behind the massive Equifax data breach can’t exploit your stolen information no matter if or when they try.
  • Lastly, be sure to request a free yearly credit report from the three major credit bureaus every year. Review your credit history and make sure it is correct.

TSPA CPAs agree that freezing your credit is the single most effective measure against future fraud.  A credit freeze prevents existing creditors and new ones from accessing or using your information or opening new accounts in your name.

Here’s how freezing your credit works:

  • Request a credit freeze at each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, (even though, as far as we know, only Equifax’ information was compromised.)
  • There may be a small fee at each of the credit bureaus to do this.
  • You will receive a PIN from each credit bureau.
  • Absolutely no new accounts can be opened in your name while your account is frozen.
  • That said, your credit can be temporarily unfrozen when necessary (such as when you apply for a home mortgage, auto loan, or a new credit card.)
  • Credit can then be re-frozen using the same PIN. You control the information.

Equifax has announced that it is offering a free extra measure of security to worried customers, with an added security measure that includes credit file monitoring and ID theft protection. This service is free for one year, after which customers will be charged if they continue to use the service. TSPA also cautions that if you sign up for this Equifax service, you also forfeit the right to sue the company.

Still worried that your info may have been hacked? Teipen CPAs say you have the right to request a change to your social security number with the Social Security Administration.

Don’t wait and see what might happen to you. Take action now, just as our staff has, so you can rest easy, knowing your important data is out of reach.