Over 143 million Americans had their addresses, Social Security numbers, and more information exposed in a major breach of Equifax’s systems. What should you do if you think you were affected by it? What is the government going to do? We’ll explore this and more below.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Finances
For many consumers, the breach will serve as a wakeup call to keep better track of their finances. You should check your credit card statements and online bank statements regularly. At the very least, check them weekly. The Equifax kerfuffle will have long-term ramifications for many individuals and will not be a tidy and quick cleanup. Your information might be out there, and cyber criminals may not have taken advantage of it yet. So, as the story fades from the headlines, continue to keep tabs on your accounts.
Consider Freezing Your Credit
Equifax is providing free credit monitoring to people whose Social Security Numbers have been stolen. However, this service may come with strings attached. Before you agree to anything, read the fine print to ensure you are not preventing your ability to join a class action lawsuit or to take other actions in the future.
Regardless of whether you get credit monitoring from Equifax, you should still freeze your credit reports at the major bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. And, everyone should get their free report from all of the agencies to see if there are any irregularities or if credit score penalties are justified. For example, you may have a few late payments on your credit report.
The bureaus typically charge between $3 and $10 to place and remove credit freezes. Since your need for a credit freeze was caused by Equifax’s mistakes, you should be sure to document any expenses that are a result of the data breach. You may get reimbursed down the road.
Contact Your Representative
Democratic Representative Maxine Waters is calling for a total overhaul of the United States’ credit reporting system in the wake of the breach. The ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services believes that Equifax should be held accountable for the biggest data breach in our country’s history. She plans to introduce legislation that will protect consumers and their identities.
You can find out if your information was compromised by visiting Equifax. Additionally, you should consider changing all of your passwords. And, if your bank or credit card company offers two-step authentication, sign up for that option as well.