massive data breach reported by Equifax this week will
leave millions of Americans at risk of identity theft
for the rest of their lives.
credit monitoring company said Thursday that the breach
may have exposed the Social Security numbers, birthdays,
addresses and phone numbers of 143 million consumers.
Equifax has offered to give people a year of free credit
monitoring, that falls far short of what most consumers
need to protect themselves, said Adam Levin, chairman
and founder of the identity protection firm CyberScout
and author of the book "Swiped."
Social Security number is an eternal thing," he
said. Consumers have their Social Security numbers for
life, they are virtually impossible to change, and they
are the access point to each personís identity. The
Social Security numbers that children hold are also at
if an individualís accounts appear fine for now,
thieves who obtain Social Security numbers could
impersonate consumers any time in the coming years,
a result, those who had their personal data exposed need
to be on the lookout for anything unusual involving
their financial activities, including bank and credit
card accounts, bills and insurance claims. Those who had
their information exposed need to monitor credit reports
from all three credit bureaus to see if accounts have
been opened in their name, according to financial
way consumers can determine if accounts have been
fraudulently opened in their name is to check their
annual credit report, which allows for an examination of
the records kept on individuals by each of the three
credit bureaus. These reports can be obtained free
through www.annualcreditreport.com. The three credit
reporting bureaus ó Equifax, Experian and TransUnion
ó must provide individualís with a free copy of
their credit report, at their request, once every 12
see if your information is part of the data that was
hacked, check with Equifax at
www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. There are a number of other
steps consumers who may have had their data exposed in
the Equifax breach, or in any other breach, should take
to safeguard their information:
Consider putting a "freeze" on your credit
reports at all three credit bureaus. With a freeze, no
one ó including you ó can get the official
information needed to open a credit card or other
account. But you will create a private personal
identification number that you can use to open the
reports as needed if you want to open an account or
pursue other business, such as getting a mortgage.
Check credit card and banking activity at least once a
week. The sooner you detect a problem, the more chance
you will have to stop it.
Monitor medical bills and insurance information to make
sure someone isnít getting care by pretending they are
you. If they are, you may be vulnerable in more ways
than simply money. Your medical records could end up
with someone elseís blood type, for example, which
could put you in a dangerous situation, Levin said.
When using websites, use two-factor authentication when
you log on and when you are asked to set up security
questions, lie for the answers, so that someone who
knows something about you from social media wonít get
the answers right.
If you use credit monitoring services, which are
provided by credit bureaus and companies such as
Lifelock, make sure you get the highest level of
protection, one that alerts you immediately if someone
uses your Social Security number to open an account.
If you get a deficiency notice from the IRS stating that
you didnít pay enough taxes, donít ignore it, said
Levin. Itís possible that someone has used your Social
Security number to get a job. So the taxes you are
paying based on your own employment will look deficient.
On the other hand, realize that the IRS does not call
people and ask for personal information over the phone.
So if you get a call from someone saying they are from
the IRS, hang up.