Last week, Equifax, a credit monitoring company, revealed that a data breach exposed names, credit card numbers, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birth dates and other personal information of approximately 143 million U.S. consumers as well as some UK and Canadian residents. According to a Gartner Inc. analyst who tracks identity theft and fraud, this is a very serious issue and “on a scale of 1 to 10, this a 10”.
What should you do to protect yourself?
- Closely monitor your credit report
- Consider freezing your credit reports. Doing this stops potential thieves from opening new cards, accounts, or loans in your name. Keep in mind that this would also prevent you from doing the same, so you would need to lift the freeze again a few days before you want a new card or account.
- If you are unsure if you were affected by this breach, visit Equifax Security 2017 to determine if your personal information may have been impacted
- Stay alert — possibly for a while. If you were one of the many who had personal data accessed during the scandal, stay vigilant. The scammers who accessed the data could use it at any time, especially with 143 million to choose from.
How can I limit my risks of being affected by fraud and data breach?
In order to reduce the chance that your personal account information is used fraudulently, here are some good practices to follow on a regular basis:
- Never use a debit card when making purchases online. It’s always safer to use a credit card since it isn’t connected directly to the cash in your bank account. You also have the legal right to dispute any suspicious or illegitimate charges immediately on a credit card.
- Make sure to regularly review all activity on your credit and debit card, bank account, and other financial accounts.
- Make sure to regularly review your credit reports and look out for any changes or incorrect/inconsistent account information.
- Be careful when using public connections and shared devices. You should never log into financial accounts or enter personal information like credit cards or social security numbers when you are connected to a wireless hot spot or internet connection that is not secure. Additionally, using a hot spot in a public area that doesn’t require authentication can easily expose your computer to others who can access the hot spot and potentially hack into your accounts.
- Never use your email address as a login ID for any financial accounts such as a bank account. It is not uncommon for thieves to hack into victim’s emails and request new passwords to be send to the compromised email accounts.
Here’s a video from CNBC featuring Mark Grossman, a tech lawyer, and Robert Siciliano, a cyber security expert with Hotspot Shield who both discuss ways for consumers to protect themselves from any credit risks after this huge scandal.