My goal for this blog is to provide super practical privacy and cybersecurity advice for people who don’t know about, don’t care about, or don’t have time to research the best ways to take control of their privacy and security. Here’s a breakdown of the most recent Equifax hack and the steps you should take to protect yourself.
Equifax, one of the three main credit bureaus, was attacked by hackers on one of their systems during which they (the hackers) obtained access to 143 million Americans’ data. The odds are that you are a part of that number. The personal information they had access to included names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and more.
Hackers and their tools are highly advanced in today’s world. It’s not surprising Equifax got hacked. They didn’t, however, act in a responsible fashion during or after the attack. Rather, they took a long time to realize they were infected and a long time to inform the public.
They have, arguably, the largest amount of Americans’ private information. They have information on people who are not even on the internet. A credit bureau, of all companies, since they make their money from our credit data, should take the most care when it comes to security.
So what do you do?
There are two things everyone should do.
- File a fraud alert with one of the credit bureaus. Personally, I wouldn't use Equifax. See above for why.
- Fraud alerts are free, each bureau is required to inform the other two bureaus anytime one is filed, and it holds companies liable if they open credit lines in your name without notifying you (if, for example, a hacker takes your data and requests a line of credit).
- Fraud alerts only last 90 days but they take about 5 minutes to file online.
- How to file a fraud alert: 1. Go here: https://fraud.transunion.com/fa/fraudAlert/landingPage.jsp 2. Register an account 3. Click “add” under initial fraud alert and follow the instructions
- File your taxes as early as possible. The information hackers took during the Equifax breach allows them to file your tax return and have it mailed to them. This happened to me a few years ago. Not fun.
If you want to take it a step further, there’s another option. Assuming you won’t need a credit line (mortgage, credit card, loans) for awhile, I would recommend just freezing your credit. It will take about an hour of time because you will have to call all three credit bureaus. It will cost up to $30 dollars (varies by state, maximum of $10 per bureau).
Here’s the numbers, but I’m not giving you the $30! ;) Equifax (800) 685-1111 Experian (888) 397-3742 Trans-Union (800) 916-8800
One final note:
These recommendations are best-practice anytime a breach occurs that includes social security numbers. If you are ever worried that someone has gained access to your social security number (ie. you lost your card, etc.), following the recommended steps above with a few minutes of your time could save you a lot of headache down the road.
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