In case you haven’t heard the news, Equifax got hacked. Like, a big security breach. For those of you unfamiliar, Equifax is one of the three Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies in the US. The two other ones are Experian and TransUnion. Equifax recently came out and notified the public of a security breach that resulted in the leak of personal information (SSN’s, addresses, credit card numbers, etc.), potentially impacting about 143 million consumers.
Should You Check To see If You Were Impacted?
When you hear a number like 143 million, the first question is probably: is my information safe? Equifax has set up a special page to check if you were impacted. But, there’s a potential drawback with this. In addition to rumors of it not being entirely accurate or helpful, some legalese (legal jargon) on their credit monitoring services has raised some red flags.
The Terms and Conditions of their monitoring services (called TrustedID Premier) include something called an arbitration clause. In short, an arbitration clause protects Equifax from being sued. If you sign up for the service, you may be waiving your right to participate in a class-action law suit.
While some people might not care, you definitely might. If that’s the case, there are other alternatives for you.
Check Your Accounts
If you’re worried that your information may be compromised, there are a few steps you can take. Honestly these should just be standard operating procedure anyway.
First and foremost, make sure you review your account spending for fraudulent charges. If you find anything out of the ordinary, contact the issuing bank of your credit cards immediately. They’ll advise you on what to do (most likely will involve putting a hold on the card and reissuing one).
Monitor Your Credit
The second thing to do is to monitor your credit and ensure no new accounts are being opened in your name. There are several free services you can look into for checking our your credit scores. My favorite is Credit Sesame. Before using them, I was using Credit Karma.
Both will get the job done, and will update your information weekly. If new accounts are opened in your name, they’ll catch it. There are other credit monitoring services that you can also look into such as Lifelock, but since I haven’t used them I can’t comment on them.
Don’t forget that you can pull your own credit report from all three agencies annually at Annual Credit Report.
Freeze Your Credit
If you’re worried about someone fraudulently opening accounts in your name, you can also freeze your credit. It’ll cost you a few bucks to do, and you’ll need to contact each credit agency. The Washington Post has a good article outlining how to go about that. Essentially you’ll freeze your credit, be issued a PIN, and be required to use that PIN to unfreeze your credit.
What security measures do you take to help prevent identity theft?