If you have concerns about the recent massive Equifax data breach, which potentially exposed your SSN, birth date, driver’s license, and other personal data, Experian, one of the three credit reporting agencies, advises individuals to take action by doing the following five things to mitigate the risk of identity theft:
- Stay alert: If you have been part of a data breach, the breached company may send you a notice. Retain all documents and consider any suggestions they may have. Also, pay attention to and retain any mail you receive that is unfamiliar to you, such as notices from the IRS regarding your taxes or any bills from unknown lenders.
- Initiate a fraud alert: You can set a fraud alert with Experian. When you request a fraud alert be added with any of the three major credit bureaus, the bureau you contacted will notify the other two and alerts will be added with those bureaus as well. A fraud alert (also known as an initial security alert) will warn lenders that you may have been a fraud victim. This extra precaution will notify the potential lender that they should contact you before granting any new line of credit in your name. This fraud alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days. You can renew the fraud alert when it expires.
- Monitor your financial accounts: Visit your online bank and financial accounts, and set up any alert features they may have, if you have not already done so. This could help save some time and keep you notified of any unusual events when they occur.
- Monitor your credit reports: You can check your credit report for free once every twelve months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Checking your credit report can help you identify any unusual activity, such as new accounts, new personal information or inquiries.
- Freeze or lock your credit file: You may consider adding a security freeze. You can also freeze your credit reports with Equifax and TransUnion®. A security freeze will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit report. Your credit report will only be accessible by unfreezing the account. If you are planning on applying for new credit in the near future, you could consider postponing the security freeze. Fees and requirements for adding and removing a freeze vary by state.