Recent news of the Equifax data breach may not seem like something to pay attention to – stories of data breaches have become almost familiar. But it’s critical for all of us to take action because:
143 million American consumers had sensitive personal information exposed in the breach.
That’s too far-reaching to ignore. If you have credit, Equifax has your data and you could have been exposed. Names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, driver’s license numbers, credit card information, and disputed documents with identifying information were accessed in the breach.
PaySmart cares about your privacy and security. We’ve compiled a list of seven steps we recommend you take to see if your data was exposed and to protect yourself going forward.
Step 1: Visit Equifax’s website about the breach.
- Click on “Potential Impact” to see if you were affected by the breach. You will have to enter the last six digits of your Social Security number on the site, so be sure you are on a secure computer.
- Sign up for the free year of credit monitoring and other services Equifax is offering.
Step 2: Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion).
- You can get a free report from each agency every 12 months. You can get all three at once or, as we recommend, stagger when you get them throughout the year for enhanced monitoring.
Step 3: Consider establishing a credit freeze with each of the three main credit reporting agencies.
- A credit freeze prohibits anyone – other than yourself or companies with which you currently have accounts – from accessing your credit information. There is a small fee to enact a credit freeze, so check each agency’s site for specifics.
Step 4: Investigate the potential benefits of using an ID theft deterrent and monitoring company, such as Life Lock, and/or additional credit monitoring services from your financial institution or credit card issuer.
Step 5: Check your banking and credit information regularly.
- As our data flies through cyberspace and hackers become more adept, we must all make monitoring our privacy and security a personal priority. Data security is not something we can take for granted.
Step 6: Evaluate the strength of your passwords.
- Use passwords with at least eight characters and include upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special symbols.
- Don’t use the same password for every site.
- Change your passwords at least once a year.
Step 7: Pay close attention to your email (and texts and social media).
- It’s not difficult to make an email look official. When you get an email (or text or social media notification) regarding anything financial, pay close attention to the sender.
- Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact with consumers via email and Equifax will be contacting affecting consumers via snail mail.
If you have further questions or concerns, please contact us. We’ll do our best to provide the answers you need. Thank you for your continued trust in us.