Equifax is one of the three major credit bureaus in the Unites States. The customer data of 143 million people was compromised (this is about 50% of the entire US population). Information such as: social security numbers, home addresses, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and birthdays have been available to hackers from mid-May through July 29th.
Therefore, the answer is YES, the Equifax Hack could prevent you from buying a new home, a new car, refinancing your current home, applying for a new credit card, and more!
Here are some steps to take to secure your identity from being stolen and prevent further damage if it has already been compromised:
- Check if your information was leaked – You have to check directly with Equifax to see if your personal data was exposed. You can begin the process by visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com and clicking the potential impact link. You will be asked to enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. It will let you know if you may or may not be impacted by the breach. If impacted, it provides you with a link to enroll in their TrustedID Premier credit monitoring for free. However, I would still recommend following the steps below, and not trust Equifax alone, to monitor your credit.
- Check your credit reports – You can obtain a free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus by going too annualcreditreport.com. If you suspect someone used your identity to open credit cards, take on loans, or reopen closed accounts, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately. You are not responsible for charges made on a fraudulent card, but you have to report the issue in a timely manner. (Free of cost for your annual report)
- Freeze your credit – This will prevent anyone from being able to open new credit accounts using your identity, and from reopening any closed accounts. To freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers:
The process is usually automated and can be completed within a few minutes. Just be sure to write down your PINs in a secure place. These PINs will allow you to unfreeze your credit in case you want to open a new credit account yourself. (Free of Cost up to $10)
- Set a fraud alert – When you set a fraud alert, credit card companies will be required to verify your identity before opening an account. To set a fraud alert, you only have to contact one of the credit card bureaus mentioned above, and ask for an initial fraud alert. Once the alert is set, it will last 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew it. (Free of Cost)
- Identity Theft Protection – Provides additional credit file monitoring from at least one of the credit bureaus and may provide restoration services to help victims with identify theft issues. (Cost typically run between $10 – $30/month)
- File taxes early – Hackers may use your information to file a fraudulent tax return. The FTC recommends filing early, so they will know that any subsequent attempts to obtain a refund are likely fraudulent. If you suspect someone has filed a fraudulent tax return using your social security number, you can visit identitytheft.gov for more information.
Also, be aware of phone scammers. Equifax will not be calling you in regards to this breach, anyone calling and claiming they are from Equifax, is just trying to scam you out of more personal information.
Finally, you will want to check your mail for important updates from Equifax since they intend to send direct mail to those impacted. You can also stay updated by visiting their online site at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com or calling them directly at 866-447-7559.