For anyone who takes protecting their credit score and identity seriously, the news was probably like getting a punch in the gut.
As you’ve no doubt heard, Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit bureaus, was hacked — it is believed that 143 million American consumers’ personal information was exposed to online criminals. But while the nation learned about it on Sept. 7, the breach lasted from mid-May through July 29 when Equifax discovered what was happening and put a stop to it. During that time, hackers were able to collect people’s names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and even, for some people, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers from 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information from 182,000 people.
Some Canadian and British residents’ personal information was seized as well. Naturally this all begs the question: How do you protect yourself from these online identity thieves? That’s what everyone is still trying to figure out. Nevertheless, you can try the following.
Go to equifaxsecurity2017.com. You have to offer up the last six digits of your social security number and check a box that assures the website you are not a robot. Then, if Equifax thinks that there was a good chance you were one of those 143 million consumers (and, boy, the odds are good; the country’s population is 323 million), you’ll probably receive a message like this (at least, this is the message this writer received):
Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident. Click the button below to continue your enrollment in TrustedID Premier.
Then pay a visit to TrustedID.com. This is an identity theft prevention and credit monitoring company owned by Equifax, and they’re offering a year of free service to people who may have been affected by the breach. (As you may have heard, at first, if you signed up with TrustedID Premier in the days after the hacking was revealed, you gave up your legal right to sue Equifax, but after a public outcry, that’s no longer the case.) If someone tries to take out an account in your name, or your Social Security number turns up on any suspicious websites for the next year, with any luck, TrustedID will let you know. You’ll have to give out your personal information to TrustedID, including your Social Security number, but, hey, at this point, why not?