The Equifax data breach is a big deal. Because Equifax is a credit bureau, for a hacker this would be like hitting the mother lode. Where better to get credit info on people than at one of the three national credit bureaus? My dad used to say, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” We must assume that they got it all—Social Security numbers, dates of birth, account numbers and addresses, everything.
What we know is this, the hack occurred on July 29 but was not disclosed to the public for six long weeks! This time lapse gave the hackers plenty of time to comb through the 143 million records that were apparently stolen.
What to do? Here is are the six key items that I would encourage everyone consider.
1. Assume You Got Hacked
Yes, we are aware that Equifax set up a special website with a tool to check to see if you’d been affected. Our best sources tell us that the information from that site cannot be trusted. Don’t waste your time. (For related reading, see: Was I Hacked? Find out If the Equifax Breach Affects You.)
2. Freeze Your Credit at All Three Credit Bureaus
Here’s why this is such an important action. Whether it’s a new credit card, a line of credit from a bank, a car loan or whatever, the banking community almost without fail will check your credit score and credit history prior to making a loan. If you have frozen your credit, that information cannot be accessed without the special pin number that is issued to you when you request the freeze. Without the information from the credit bureau, the hacker will be denied whatever transaction they are trying to do.
Be aware that if you apply for anything requiring a credit check, you will need to ask the financial institution you’re dealing with what credit bureau they will access. Then you can un-freeze that account so they can access it and check your credit. Remember to re-freeze the account once the lender has completed their check.
You must freeze your accounts with all three credit bureaus. Here are links to the three sites.
Be sure you keep the pin number from each freeze in a place that you can access. You can also call the credit bureaus if you’re having trouble with their websites. (For related reading, see: How to Recover From Identity Theft.)