Criminals gained access to Equifax’s database from mid-May through July 2017. The breach impacted the social security numbers, birth dates, and addresses of 145.5 million Americans, including nearly 5 million Michigan residents.
Credit card information, dispute documents with personal identifying information, and driver’s license numbers were also stolen in some cases.
When breaches, like this one, occur from hacking or unauthorized access, the stolen personal information is more likely to be used to commit identity theft. Thus, you need to take the threat seriously and take steps now to prevent becoming an identity theft victim.
First, some red flags:
Equifax no longer offers its complimentary TrustedID products, but now instead offers a “Lock & Alert” service to control access to your Equifax credit report. Equifax is advertising that the service is “free, for life.” Credit card information is not required to enroll.
Stay vigilant. Data breach related Identity Theft often does not occur until well have the breach has faded from the headlines and your memory—it can occur years later. Identity thieves also wait until any free credit reporting provided by the breached company expires. Thus, once you know that your information has been breached, you are on notice from then on to protect your information and monitor your accounts and credit reports.
Take these steps to help prevent identity theft:
For extra security, you can apply a freeze to a fourth, lesser-known agency, Innovis.
Freezing your credit reports is an effective way to prevent identity theft. With a security freeze, you and a select few others are the only ones that can access your information. Security freezes require a PIN and placing them on your reports will not affect your credit score.
Credit reporting agencies may not charge a fee to place or to temporarily or permanently lift a security freeze.Equifax
Equifax has different numbers to contact to accomplish the following:
For more information on initial fraud alerts and security freezes, review the Attorney General’s Consumer Alert, Credit Freeze; Fraud Alert; & Credit Monitoring.
An initial fraud alert is a free alert, or flag, that is placed on your credit file when you notify a credit reporting agency that your information may have been compromised. This alert will make it more difficult for anyone to open an account in your name. The Federal Trade Commission provides a checklist for this.
There are three important things to keep in mind when placing an initial fraud alert on your file: 1) the alert makes it more difficult for anyone, including yourself, to open an account in your name; 2) when someone attempts to open or extend credit in your name the creditor is required to take additional steps to try to verify that you have authorized the request; and 3) the initial fraud alert will only stay on your file for one year and may be renewed.
Federal law requires that the credit reporting agencies provide you with a free copy of your credit report after you place a fraud alert, and it requires the credit reporting agency that you contact to notify other nationwide credit reporting agencies. Innovis is not a nationwide agency and must be notified separately.
Be sure to review your credit report carefully, to ensure that there is no inaccurate information in your file and that no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name.
Before you accept a free subscription offered to you as a result of a security breach, carefully consider any conditions placed on your acceptance of this subscription.
For example, will you be charged after a short free period? Or will you only get the free subscription if you give up your right to additional legal redress?
Your TrustedID services will end one year from the date you signed up for them, and include:
Michigan consumers may visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website devoted to identity theft.
Michigan consumers may also call the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Hotline, at 877-ID-THEFT
(438-4338); or seek help at the Identity Theft Resource Center, 888-400-5530.
For general consumer questions or complaints, you may reach the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at:Consumer Protection Division
The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.