Three steps to take today if you have been impacted by the Equifax data breach

There are three immediate steps you can take on your own to begin to address the risk the potentially dangerous Equifax data breach poses. These steps are apart from signing up with Equifax for credit monitoring. Here are the steps, with explanations below. Information for Canadian and UK residents is included where available:

  1. If you have a Social Security Number, set up your online account for your Social Security records. From there, you can then block electronic access to your account if needed. (SIN for Canadians, NINO for UK residents.)

  2. Put a fraud alert (red flag alert) on your bank accounts, credit accounts, and all financial accounts.

  3. Get a free copy of your credit report from the free service, AnnualCreditReport.com. (Free or low cost reports from Equifax available for Canadian and UK residents.)

 

Sign up for a Social Security Administration My Social Security account

The Social Security Administration allows individuals with an SSN to sign up and monitor their Social Security records. It is smart to pro-actively sign up for an account. You want to get that account locked into your name, with your passwords and email associated with it. It makes it much harder for an ID thief to sign up in your place.

After you have an account, if you are concerned about identity theft, you can block electronic access to your Social Security record so that it is much less vulnerable to ID thieves or other snooping. This is a simple but powerful step to take.

Information for US residents about My Social Security accounts : 

Information for Canadians about Protecting Social Insurance Numbers (S.I.Ns): 

Information for UK residents about NINO records: 

 

Put a fraud alert on your financial accounts

If you are a victim of the Equifax breach, which is a serious breach, it is a good idea to be proactive and ask your financial institution to place a fraud alert, sometimes called a red flag alert, on your financial account. You can set fraud alerts for:

  • Bank accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Credit card accounts

and other financial services accounts.

To find out how to set a fraud alert for your financial institution, you can call your bank or financial service provider and simply ask them to place a fraud alert. Some banks call this a “flash alert,” some call it a “red flag,” some call it a “fraud alert.” It is often helpful to talk to a customer support professional at the financial institution so that you can explain you want to put an alert on all of your accounts, but not close them.

Note that calling to replace credit cards that have been breached is different from placing a red flag alert or fraud alert on your accounts. The fraud alert is not supposed to close your account; it is supposed to flag your account to let bank or other financial institution employees know that they need to be certain it is you when they take any action or accept phone call instructions regarding your accounts.

More information: 

  • We recommend calling your financial institutions to inquire about placing fraud alerts on your accounts.

 

Get a free copy of your credit bureau reports from AnnualCreditReport.com

For US residents, Congress has mandated that individuals can get one free copy of their credit bureau reports once each year. Now is the right time to get that done. You can go online to the web site AnnualCreditReport.com, or you can call and make the request. The idea is to keep the reports that you get now as a baseline, so you have something to compare future reports to. Having a baseline report will assist you in spotting new or unusual activity.

If you have not reviewed your credit report before, it may be a lot of information to digest at first. You might not have realized how much information credit bureaus collect about you. There are tools for helping you understand how to read your credit report. Here are two: Credit Report Anatomy, from Creditcards.com, and TransUnion Credit Report User Guide from credit bureau TransUnion.

Canadian residents can request a free credit report from Equifax. UK residents can request a low-cost “Statutory Credit Report” from Equifax for £2.

More information for US residents: 

More information for Canadian residents: 

More information for UK Residents: 

These three steps are not the only steps you can take to reduce your risk from the Equifax data breach. But they are steps you can take now, and you don’t have to wait until credit monitoring services are available to you.

Some have been asking about Security Freezes. That is a more complex option. We have a detailed page on security freezes in the US, with links here: https://www.worldprivacyforum.org/2009/10/resource-page-state-security-freeze-laws-and-general-information/.