A grand total 145.5 million people were affected by the Equifax data breach.
Yahoo corrected their 2013 breach of 1 billion users to all 3 billion users.
The breaches hacked names, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver’s license data, birth dates and credit card numbers.
Some haven’t heard of Equifax – a consumer credit reporting agency along with TransUnion and Experian. Banks and other financial companies report your information to these companies. The data is used primarily to make decisions about loans and insurance. Employers and landlords also look at credit reports to determine job offers and leases.
The worst part is that the fallout may just be starting. Long-term vigilance is most important. Hacked data can remain dormant for years before it is misused.
Some suggested actions include:
Review your credit report annually for accurate information familiar to you. Reports can be obtained every four months on a rotating basis from the “Big Three” credit bureaus at no cost for Colorado residents (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) at www.annualcreditreport.com.Carefully review credit card and bank account statements for unauthorized charges, withdrawals, account transfers and unknown merchants. Reconcile your checkbook at least monthly for unauthorized transactions or checks with changed payees. Keep your checkbook out of plain sight and report missing checks to your bank.Use credit instead of debit. The is better fraud protection and postpones purchase payment.Don’t let cards out of sight. Use credit and debit cards for payment only where you can swipe them yourself. For gasoline and restaurant meals, try to pay at a register or keep them in sightShred personal documents. Crosscut shred to destroy all statements and personal informationMonitor your credit score. Look for a sharp drop in your score, indicating fraudulent activity.Practice digital security. Use passwords on laptops, tablets and phones if used for financial transactions. Guard logins, passwords, PINs and security questionsAvoid unprotected Wi-Fi for purchases or banking transactions. Secure sensitive data at home. Particularly when contractors, caregivers, roommates and others have unsupervised access. Keep your Social Security card in a secure location (not your wallet).Smash hard drives and cellphones to assure that sensitive saved data cannot be misused.Avoid remote ATMs. Do not use ATMs far from bank cameras that may have skimming devices attached. Credit freeze each of the four credit bureaus to head off new fraudulent activity. Initiate credit freezes for your children. Reports typically are not viewed until a child is 18, providing long periods for use by hackers.To make a credit freeze most effective, freeze each of the four credit bureaus, including the lesser-known Innovis, even if you have theft protection.
Placing a freeze on your files prevents potential new creditors from accessing to your financial information.
There is no cost to initiate this. You can be temporarily or permanently removed as needed. Call or go online to initiate a freeze:
Equifax: Go to the bottom of the page and click on “Place a Security Freeze on Reports.”Experian: Under the “Credit Report Assistance” tab, click on security freeze, then click “Add a Security Freeze.”TransUnion: You can try to do this online or by phone. The phone number for TransUnion’s Security Freeze Line is (888) 909-8872. Innovis: Under “Personal Solutions,” go to “Security Freeze,” then submit the Security Freeze Request Online form. You can also request a freeze by calling (800) 540-2505.It is a simple action that can prevent significant stress down the road.
Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at email@example.com or 382-6461.