Credit Monitoring Equifax announced Thursday that approximately 143 million Americans have had their personal information exposed due to an attack on their system between May and June of this year. The theft obtained consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers.
BBB offers the following suggestions for consumers concerned that their personal information has been stolen:
- Do not take a “wait and see” approach. You must act quickly. Breaches involving Social Security numbers have the potential to be far more detrimental to victims, and the damage can be difficult to repair.
- Consider taking a preemptive strike by freezing your credit reports. This will not impact existing credit cards and financial accounts, but will create a roadblock for thieves seeking to create fraudulent accounts using your personal information.
- At a minimum, if you know your Social Security number has been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit reports. While less effective than a freeze, this will provide an extra layer of protection.
- Take advantage of any free credit monitoring services being offered by the company to breach victims. While this is not a preventative measure, this will alert you to new accounts or inquiries using your Social Security number so that you can act quickly to repair the damage.
- Vigilance is key. Regularly check your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com for unauthorized charges or other signs of fraud. (NOTE: This is the only free credit report option authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.)
When a data breach happens, companies often set up separate websites with information for customers, but BBB recommends that consumers always go to a company’s main website first and follow links from there. Scammers often take advantage of data breaches and subsequent confusion to set up spoof websites and send phishing emails. Expect that scammers will take advantage of this data breach to send out phishing emails and other messages that appear to be from a credit bureau or other legitimate companies. Do not click on links from any email, text or social media messages about this or any other data breach.