How to survive the ‘hacking’ massive Equifax
If you think your personal information has been compromised, read this and act immediately.
One of the data gaps are larger in the story has left 143 million people wondering if their personal data have been exposed to hackers. For now, Equifax does not tell you explicitly if you were one of the victims, and in 99.99% of cases you will not be notified by direct mail. But, if you are worried because you were vulnerable to identity theft due to the breach, this guide is for you.
First things first: What happened?
Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the united States, said Thursday that its database was hacked, affecting around 143 million accounts. That information included social security numbers, address of residence, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers and dates of birth. The company estimates that the data of 143 million people were exposed to, which is equivalent to approximately half of the population of the united States. That means that the chances that you see affected are quite high.
Despite the fact that Equifax established a program to help people protect their data potentially exposed, could not give you all the full assurance that their identity would be kept safe. These are the reasons why:
The program Equifax don’t explicitly tell if your data were part of the hack. The company only makes it clear to those who were not exposed. That is confusing. (We contacted Equifax to request a comment, but we have not had news).
The hacking might have begun since mid-may of 2017. That means that the data of 143 million people were exposed more than three months. It is not clear what the hackers did with that data during those months.
Those who wish to be cautious in regards to the protection of your identity may have to wait a week before they sign up officially in the program of protection from Equifax.
You don’t have to wait to enroll in the program Equifax to begin to protect themselves against the hacking. This is what you can do.
Step 1: Join the program Equifax
The program of identity protection from Equifax is not perfect, but it will help to make sure you are using all available resources to protect your identity. Keep in mind that even if the logging tool indicates that you weren’t exposed, you’re still eligible for a free subscription of one year to the protection services from Equifax. (This is not a bad idea given the frequency of these violations to the security).
The language in the terms of service for the program Equifax, Trusted ID, has generated concerns that enrollment in such a program prevents consumers participate in a class action lawsuit. CNET is studying this and we are asking for more information to Equifax. We will update this article when we know more.
Step 2: Check your credit report
More than three months passed between the time that the hacking might have begun and now. We’re not sure if the data of the affected was used maliciously during that period, so consider to look at your credit reports for any suspicious activity. The federal government guarantees to all a annual credit report free from the three major agencies — yes, including Experian. You can get these reports here.
When reviewing your credit reports, take a good eye to new accounts you did not open, delayed payments on the debts that you do not recognize and any other activity that appears to be unknown.
If you suspect that someone has used your identity to open credit cards, take out a loan or re-open closed accounts, immediately contact the fraud department of the issuing company of your credit cards. You’re not responsible for charges made on a card that is fraudulent, but you must report the problem in a timely manner. Once you have reported the fraudulent credit, follow this guide to recovering from identity theft.
Step 3: Freeze your credit
It is still early, so even if your credit report is clean, not to lower the guard in regards to the protection of your credit. One of the most reliable ways to prevent someone from opening credit cards in your name is to place what is called a “freezing of credit”.
When you freeze your credit, you (or any person using your identity) you will have to “thaw” the account by providing the PIN that you received at the time of freezing your credit.
To freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers:
The process is usually automated and can be completed in a few minutes. Just make sure you write down your PIN in a safe place.
Step 4: Set a fraud alert
A fraud alert is another way to make it difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When you set a fraud alert, the credit card companies must verify your identity before opening an account. That, combined with the credit freeze, is a great way to keep your credit safe.
To set a fraud alert, contact one of the agencies of credit card and request a fraud alert initial. Once established, the alert will last 90 days. After that, you will need to renew it. Here are the phone numbers appropriate for the office (remember, just call one of them):
Step 5: Repeat the process with your loved ones
Because Equifax does not notify the affected parties through direct mail or e-mail, some people will be left without the resources or expertise to protect their identities or to find out if you were compromised. With this in mind, please help your loved ones — especially to the elderly who do not have access to a computer — using the previous steps.
eye with tax season
It is still early to know if the data exposed in hacking to Equifax will be poorly used, but a major concern will come during the tax season. Identity thieves can use social security numbers stolen to file fraudulent tax returns and receive refunds.
Many victims discover they have been the target of tax fraud when they try to file their taxes. The tax office of the USA (IRS, for its acronym in English) has a practical guide to avoiding tax fraud. You can find more information in this link.