"Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure." -Confucius Read Time: 2 Mins
If you haven’t heard already, Equifax, one of the major credit reporting agency got hacked. We’re going to cover what that means for your you, how you can protect yourself from the thieves, and just how big of a deal this hack is.
First, let’s talk about how big of a deal this is. It goes without saying but Equifax has hundreds of millions of people’s personal information that they store in their system.
The Equifax hack reportedly lost half of all Americans information. HALF! We’re talking the most personal financial data that exists on the web. This is not okay nor should you take this hack lightly with the rise of identity theft.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 10. It affects the whole credit reporting system in the United States because nobody can recover it, everyone uses the same data,” said Avivah Litan, a Gartner Inc analyst who tracks identity theft and fraud.
Equifax has created a website where you can check to see if your data was hacked. Enter your name the last six digits of your social security number, and you’ll get a message that looks like this if you’re info was compromised.
If you get a confirmation that your information was compromised in the Equifax Hack, it means that the crooks likely got access to your name, phone number, email address, past physical addresses and potentially your bank account information.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to shut down all your accounts, but it will be wise to put additional safeguards in place to monitor any activity that may come up.
A side note: Beware of signing up for Equifax’s credit monitoring services as, after the first year, you will be charged for the service. Go figure. They loose your info, then sell you a solution to protect it.
The first thing you should do is check your credit. Checking your credit will allow you to see if there have been any breaches or new accounts opened. No matter if you’ve been hacked or not, you should make a habit of checking your credit monthly to stay aware of any potential changes.
Nearly 30% of people have an error on their credit report but don’t know it.
Nobody likes the thought of checking their credit score… BUT, it’s the one thing you can do right now to stay in the know and protect yourself.
So, grab your cup of coffee, open a new tab, and head on over to a free site like Credit Sesame and check your score before you move on to the next step.
Put a freeze on your credit accounts. This assures that any new incoming requests for new credit cards, house loans, or any other new lines of credit will be denied automatically. The downside is that you’ll need to unfreeze them in the future if you do actually apply for a loan.
Freezing your credit could take you an hour or so to complete, especially now that the concern about identity theft is widespread but it will be well worth it. In my opinion, this small inconvenience outweighs the alternative of having your identity stolen.
Beware: In some cases they will charge you a small fee to freeze your credit, which I find extremely offensive, seeing you didn’t ask them to keep your information in the first place…
Our digital information is always under attack and the more you know about how to protect it the better off you’ll be. The Equifax Hack only proves this.
If you want to take your security a step further, freeze your accounts.
I believe if you do these two things, you increase your chance of staying secure online.
Also published on Medium.
Zack is one of the co-founders of FreeUp and is in charge of setting the strategy for the blog and managing the day-to-day operations. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome blog content, he likes to geek out about global affairs, ride motorcycles and can probably be found hiking somewhere during his days off.