No doubt, we’re all concerned about the recent data breach at Equifax. Reports of 143 million affected will have a lasting impact. For all the wonderful benefits of technology, this is by far one of the most detrimental effects of that wonderful technology. If you know anyone who has ever dealt with identity theft, then you know how much of a pain in the _ _ _ it can be. In case you missed it, there is a website that you go to and enter some information to find out if you are one of the unfortunate souls that may have had their information stolen. Click HERE to check for yourself. The site said I was potentially affected, but my wife was not. They encourage you to sign up for one year of free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection through TrustedID Premier. (it should be noted that many articles are suggesting that by signing up for this service you are waiving your rights to participate in any future class-action lawsuits that may arise)
What did I do?
- I went to AnnualCreditReport.com and requested a free credit report from one of the three credit bureaus. I intend to do the same thing four months from now with one of the other bureaus, and finally the third bureau 4 months after that. By staggering them every four months, I can keep an eye on my credit for free!
- I am looking into a putting a freeze on my credit. This is not a small step as it will impact your ability to qualify for credit during the freeze. A more subtle, yet effective step is to put a fraud alert on your credit. I will likely use a fraud alert.
- I regularly monitor my bank accounts and credit cards. Most banks and credit card companies offer email or text alerts that you can add to notify you of suspicious behavior. It’s free! ADD THESE ALERTS!
- Finally, I used this recent event to update, actually upgrade all my online passwords, especially on my online bank and credit card companies. They are strong passwords now, based upon a series of letters, numbers, and symbols. They are still easy to remember as they relate to something personal, but would not likely be decoded by anyone.
Here are some federal and state resources that may be of help:
Doing nothing is not an option. You have to protect your identity. Keep in mind, when information like this is stolen, it usually gets sold on a black market, and often the criminals do not use this information in many cases until a year or so after the initial theft. In summary, take these steps now and stay diligent in your monitoring.