The credit bureau Equifax just announced a recent data breach affecting 143 million U.S. consumers – that means there’s basically a 1 in 2 chance that you’ve been impacted. The company says the hacked data consists of everything from Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, to even dispute documents that contained personal information.
If your information is a part of the hack, Equifax says it will alert you via mail. However, for a more immediate answer as to whether or not your information has been compromised, you can visit this website.
If your information is potentially impacted, Equifax will provide you the option to enroll for free in its “TrustedID Premier” program (a credit monitoring program) for one year.
And no matter if your information has been compromised or not, it’s also a smart move to “freeze” your credit at all three credit bureaus: Experian, TranUnion, and, yes, Equifax (this is assuming you’re not taking out a loan or applying for a credit card in the near future). Doing this essentially “locks down” your credit file so a potential hacker cannot open up any new accounts with your data. If you’re an identity theft victim, a credit freeze should be free; if you’re doing it proactively, there’s a small fee to place and lift a freeze.
At this time, Equifax says that there is no evidence of unauthorized activity using this stolen information. Time will tell. But having your identity stolen is a very serious – and scary – situation. So, how do you pick up the pieces if this data breach turns into a worst-case scenario for you? Here are a few steps you can take if someone steals your identity:
- Develop a plan: Take a deep breath. With a little planning and action, this will all get taken care of. It won’t happen overnight, but you can resolve these issues. First, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website. This site has plenty of information about repairing your credit and the appropriate steps to take.
- Get your credit reports: It’s important you know what you’re working with. You want to know what accounts were opened in your name or any derogatory marks on your credit reports. You should look at each credit report from all three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You are entitled to a free credit report from each agency every 12 months. Remember, you’re strictly looking for fraudulent information.
- Contact credit agencies: You will need to alert each credit bureau that your information has been compromised. This is easy to do online on each of their sites and will help alert them to fraud.
- Dispute fraudulent activity: This is also easily done online. Review your credit reports and report any activity that you were not aware of and that is not valid.
- Complete a fraud affidavit and file a police report: Your fraud affidavit must be notarized. Sometimes creditors will send you this document. If not, you can get it online. You will also need to file a police report. Once both documents are complete, send them to creditors by certified mail.
- Contact creditors: Keep a log of your contact with creditors: who you talked to and what documents they’ve received. Sometimes information can get lost, so, be patient and persistent. Continue to follow up until you have resolved the discrepancy.
- Start contacting your creditors: After you’ve corrected some of the fraudulent accounts, you can start requesting accommodations to pay back debt. Now that you have evidence that your identity was stolen, creditors will be more inclined to work with you. All derogatory remarks may not come off your credit for a while, but continue to check your reports and check the status of your credit.
The Simply Money Point
Getting your identity stolen can be extremely stressful and disheartening. By taking action and remaining persistent, you’ll have a greater chance of getting your life back to normal.