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As Irma is wrecking havoc on her path, there's a mess (thankfully not life threatening, but also very damaging) that you may be dealing with it now.
Equifax Data Breach
Last week, one of the credit bureaus, EQUIFAX, announced they had a massive data breach this year.
Approximately 143 million Americans have had their personal and identifying data exposed.
Identifying information includes:
- birth dates,
- Social Security numbers
Pretty much it's an epic fail.
So what does that means for you?
Time to get to work.
Identity Theft: How to Protect Yourselves
While things get sorted with Equifax, you can minimize the damage with identity theft with these steps:
- Grab your credit report. Request a copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport to make sure it’s accurate. You’re entitled to reviewing all 3 of your reports for free.
- Freeze your credit report. Freezing your report does NOT affect your credit score and you can lift it when needed. (There is a small fee ($5-$20) – which I hate – but this can help you avoid a massive mess that comes with identity theft,)
- You can also put a fraud alert which lets creditors to get a copy of your credit report, but they have to verify your identity.
- Monitor your accounts. This shouldn't be a big deal if you already using a money app like Personal Capital, Mint, or HoneyFi. You can easily review all your transactions to make sure things are going smoothly. If not, please set up some time this weekend and either sign up wth one of those free apps or manually review all of your accounts. Set up a regular time to review (such as your money dates).
For freezing your accounts or putting an alert you need to contact the credit bureaus.
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-72892.
Equifax has a monitoring service they are offering for victims, but it is FREE for only one year. (There was worry earlier that customers who signed up would give up their right to sue, but that has been corrected.)
Another option for monitoring and some identity protection is Credit Sesame (you can read my review here).
It's free membership (no credit card or trial required) that will monitor, has identity protection, and has monthly updates on your credit score.
Yes, it's annoying and frustrating that you have to be so proactive, but this data breach is HUGE. I would hate for you to be a victim of identity theft.
I hope you never have to use this information. If you do, though, I wish you a speedy resolution.
If you need more tips and advice, please check out the FTC’s Identity Theft Resource page.