You have probably already heard about the Equifax security breach, which became public this past week. From mid-May through July, online hackers accessed the personal information of 143 million consumers. Names, addresses, social security numbers, birth dates, drivers license numbers, and even credit card numbers were compromised. Click here to to find out if your information was potentially compromised.
Whether or not your information was compromised during the Equifax security breach, this is a big wake up call. It is not enough to hope that your banks, credit card companies, creditors, and anyone else with your personal information, has the ability to protect it. You MUST be proactive.
Here's what you can do right now:
You can freeze your credit. This restricts who can access your credit, which means if someone (not you) tries to open a credit card, buy a car, or do something else that requires your credit report to get pulled, their access will be prevented. This creates a hassle for identity thieves, and is a good deterrent. You can unfreeze your credit when you need to. The cost to freeze/unfreeze is $5-$10, or free if you're a victim of identity theft. Click here for more information on how to freeze your credit.
Sign up for text/email notifications with your bank and/or credit card company. By doing this, you will be notified any time a charge was made to your account. This is the fastest way to find out about fraudulent charges.
Here's what NOT to do:
Think twice before enrolling in TrustedID Premier, the credit monitoring service Equifax is offering free of charge for a year. The information stolen during this breach may be used for decades, so one year of monitoring service doesn't do much good.
Do not put your security in the hands of LifeLock or other identity theft protection services. After this week's online security breach, many people may be easily sold on identity theft protection, but LifeLock has received criticism for overstating their services. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that the identity theft protection that LifeLock advertised, was deceptive. The 2010 settlement ordered LifeLock to pay $12 million for customer refunds, and to stop using false claims about their services. The FTC says LifeLock has not complied. It is best to take the steps listed above to personally protect your private information.