If you have a credit report, you are at risk of the data breach announced by Equifax last month.
An estimated 143 million people are impacted, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau is 43 percent of the population and makes it likely you are.
This is not a typical data breach, extremely sensitive personal information has been compromised including Social Security numbers, addresses, birth date, credit card account numbers — all of which can be used to steal your identity and wreak havoc on your personal life. In addition, you could be at risk of tax identity theft and other consequences in the future.
Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest suggests the following tips to navigate this significant data breach:
Check to see if you are impacted. Go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if your information is part of the data breach.
Be proactive. If you find your information is impacted, research options and execute.
Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to order free credit reports to monitor activity. Consider getting a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit reports. A fraud alert will notify you for 90 days every time a company attempts to access your credit report and you will have to renew it without prompt if you want alerts to continue.
A freeze will put your information on lockdown, meaning the credit bureaus can’t give it out without your permission making it more difficult for an identity thief to open an account in your name. A fraud alert or security freeze will not impact your credit score or impair your ability to use your existing credit cards.
To be effective, a freeze must be set up with all three credit bureaus. A credit freeze requires you to go through the process of lifting the freeze in order for a company to access your reports. There is a $5 fee for each freeze. If you need to give access to a creditor, you can request a “thaw” on the report later for a specific creditor or specific period of time for an additional $5 fee.
Monitor your accounts regularly. Check every charge on your statements. Scammers often test cards with smaller charges before racking up large bills. Confirm each charge on your account line by line. Sign up for alerts on your credit card, debit, and bank accounts.
The Better Business Bureau offers more tips at: go.bbb.org/breach and go.bbb.org/creditfreeze
Kirstin Davis is the marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest.