In this day and age, it is more a matter of “when” will my personal information be stolen and not “if”. Unfortunately, that is just the way of the world that we live in due to the interconnectedness that the wonderful world wide web allows.
While not the biggest personal information breach of all time, (That one goes to the more than a billion-people getting information stolen from Yahoo!) the Equifax breach is particularly troublesome because it involves so much personally identifying information. Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and even more could have been given to the people that breached the Equifax data center. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this breach lasted from mid-May to July and while people may not care HOW it happened, as a company that focuses on security, we do! They used a vulnerability in the Equifax web services to run arbitrary code (The vulnerability has since been patched. Updates are important!)
The other problem with this breach is that it involves a lot of data that might not necessarily be used to open credit cards immediately. People with the information could pretend to be you at your bank, your cell provider, even the IRS! It pays to be diligent and see what to do in the event your information was stolen and is being used.
So now what do I do?
Well, there are several steps that you can take to protect yourself. But the first thing you should do is to check to see if your information has been compromised. You can do this my visiting https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/; PLEASE be sure to use a secure device and network as you will be asked to enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number.
If you're worried about your data, Equifax is providing a year of their free TrustedID Premier credit monitoring, if you agree to not be part of any class-action lawsuits. The draw-back of this option is that the monitoring will only last for a year and it will keep you from being able to take part in any lawsuit that may happen against this credit reporting giant.
Another thing that you can do is to check your credit report. You can do this by visiting
https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Remember, you are legally entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year!
You could also think about putting a credit freeze on your files. While this won’t prevent someone from using your current account to make fraudulent purchases, it will prevent someone from opening a new account in your name. If nothing else, you can contact your financial institutions and/or credit card providers and ask them to place a fraud alert on your file. This will notify your creditors that you are possibly a victim of identity theft.
Make sure to file your taxes early! Even though no one enjoys filing taxes or dealing with the IRS, this will prevent anyone who may
have stolen your information from doing so for you!
Finally, make sure to closely monitor your bank accounts and credit cards and don’t hesitate to contact your financial institution in the event you see a suspicious charge!