The credit bureau, Equifax, disclosed a breach of up to 143 million Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other personal data.
The types of information taken from the massive credit bureau, particularly Social Security numbers and dates of birth, are the keys to new account identity theft. This means identity thieves could open fraudulent credit accounts and rack up tons of debt in your name.
What to do now?
PennPIRG, a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society, has issued this news release and has made the following recommendations.
Q: How do I know if I’ve been hacked?
A: Equifax has a website where you can use a tool to see whether your information has been hacked. We have seen numerous press reports stating that it gives different results at different times. For now, it’s safer to assume that your information has been compromised.
With your credit report, you can spot any unauthorized activity. By law, you can request a copy of your credit report from each credit bureau every 12 months. If you request one report every three to four months, you have your own version of free credit monitoring throughout the year.
Q: What can I do to make sure my identity is safe going forward?
A: Consumers can place Fraud Alerts or Security Freezes on their credit reports. Taking this step instructs any potential lender or credit issuer to contact you by phone and request verification that you requested to open a new account, increase a credit limit, or obtain a new card. If you decline or can not be reached, the request for new credit will be denied.
Manage Your Finances
It’s important to keep a close eye on your credit, bank accounts and statements, and credit reports. Managing your credit and finances will help ensure that identity thieves do not harm your good name.
- Review your bank and credit card statements regularly. If you notice suspicious activity, contact the bank or creditor.
- Obtain current credit reports. If accounts are listed that you did not open, write to the credit bureau to request documentation from the furnisher, such as the copy of a signed loan application.
- Keep your bills paid. Having strong credit makes it easier to identify actual problems with a creditor or inaccuracies on a credit report.
Identity Theft Victims
If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, the following steps must be taken:
- File a police report.
- Request a current credit report from each Transunion, Experian & Equifax.
- File a Fraud Alert.
- Contact creditors and banks to inform them of the identity theft. Review all charges on your accounts. Dispute, in writing, any unrecognizable charges.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission by submitting an Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Maintain a file documenting all calls and correspondence related to the theft, police reports, credit reports, credit card statements, etc.