On September 7, the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax announced a large cybersecurity breach impacting 143 million people. According to Equifax the breach includes names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license or credit card numbers.
Though Equifax has stated that it is contacting consumers who have been impacted by the breach, here are some reminders about how to help protect you and your family.
- Consider whether you want to put a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit accounts.
- A fraud alert on your credit file states that you may be a potential identity theft victim. If you apply for a loan or credit, the lender must take extra steps to verify the applicant’s identity before issuing the line of credit or service. A fraud alert may slow down your ability to get new credit, but it should not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other accounts.
- A security freeze means no one can take out credit without your authorization. This will impact your ability to take out new credit, but no one else will be able to take out credit in your name without your permission. Parents and legal guardians can place a security freeze on the credit report of a child or other protected individual.
- Learn more about placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection website or the Federal Trade Commission Fraud Alert website.
- Avoid revealing personal or financial information in email messages, and do not respond to email solicitations for this type of information.
- After a security breach, hackers will often prey on your fears and go “phishing.” They’ll pose as a legitimate business, even Equifax or your bank, and ask you to confirm private information. Don’t fall for these emails. When in doubt, delete it out.
- Do not click on links in an email message or open an attachment if you cannot confirm the source.
- If in doubt, hover over a link to see if it is legitimate. Some email addresses or links appear real, but when you hover over the link it reveals a different address or link than what is in the text of the message. This indicates a fraudulent address or link.
- Request a free copy of your credit report and review it for unusual activity.
- You may request a free copy of your credit report each year. Call 877-322-8228 or go to annualcreditreport.com
- Keep in mind that annualcreditreport.com is the only website authorized to fulfill requests for your free annual credit report. Other websites may claim they offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring,” but they are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program.
- Check bank and credit card statements on a regular basis for unusual or suspicious activity.
- Change your passwords regularly.
- Passwords should use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and numbers and symbols.
- Avoid words or dates a hacker could possibly guess including date of birth, “password,” or 1234.
- For optimal protection, create a unique password for each financial account.
- Do not save your password on internet sites – retype them each time for enhanced security.
- Keep security software current on all your computers.
- Install the latest updates on your web browser and operating system to help prevent cyber attacks.
For more information on how to protect you and your family against online and cybersecurity threats, visit the following websites: