Cyber criminals have stolen 143 million credit records in a recent hacking scandal at the credit bureau, Equifax. The information accessed primarily includes names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. You should assume that thieves have highly personal information that they can use to deceive you. You should be aware of the following things:
- Phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised
- Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information
- Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union
- Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen
Here are things you can do to help prevent identity theft:
- Sign up for credit monitoring (there are several companies providing that service)
- Consider freezing your credit files at the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. (Remember that it may not be possible to sign up for credit monitoring services or open accounts after a freeze is in place). To file a freeze on a state-by-state basis: http://consumersunion.org/research/security-freeze/
- If you decide not to place a credit freeze, at least place a fraud alert on your account with each of the credit rating agencies. A fraud alert is intended to warn creditors that you may have been the victim of identity theft and asks them to verify the identity of anyone seeking credit in your name.
- If you believe that you have been the victim of identity theft, monitor your bank accounts and credit cards for signs of fraud. Immediately report any suspicious activity to your bank. Additionally, you should contact the proper law enforcement authorities, including local law enforcement, and you should consider contacting your state attorney general.
- We recommend that you remain vigilant for incidents of fraud and identity theft by monitoring your credit reports. You may obtain a free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting agency every 12 months by requesting your report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228.
- You may also purchase a copy of your credit report by contacting any of the credit reporting agencies below:
- You also may contact the Federal Trade Commission to obtain additional information about avoiding identity theft, Consumer Response Center located at:
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580; 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) www.ftc.gov/idtheft