What You Need To Do After The Equifax Hack

What You Need To Do After The Equifax HackIf you have been paying close attention to the news, you might have heard about the Equifax hack and how it affected about 143 million consumers. Their personal information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, driver’s license number, and even birth dates. The hack also exposed credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers as well as dispute documents. To top it off, UK and Canadian customers were also exposed to the hack.

This is not the first time Equifax has been embroiled in a hacking controversy according to Tripwire. In 2013, Equifax along with Experian, and TransUnion reported intrusions into some credit information of high-profile individuals using only publicly available information. In 2016, they were again hit with Kroger where the attack was initiated by getting access to employee’s W2 forms.

At present, the Equifax has set up equifaxsecurity2017.com where consumers can log in with six digits of their social security number. If the system believes that the consumer’s personal details were part of the hack, they would then be given a link to TrustedID.com. This is a credit monitoring and theft prevention company which is owned by Equifax. They would then proceed to offer a free one-year service to affected people.

What this does is that inc case someone else tries to take out an account under your information, TrustedID would give you a head’s up. This is important because it gives you peace of mind knowing that there is someone on top of the situation. However, you should still conduct due diligence on all your accounts and not leave everything up to them.

Key people leaving after Equifax hack

After the company announced the incident, two key employees in Equifax are retiring from their current posts in the company. CNN shared that Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Security Officer (CSO) are retiring. This move is not uncommon for companies where they see top executives leaving after a big incident such as a hacking.

Where did the hack originate from?

Hackers were able to gain access to the company’s system through a vulnerability in the Apache Strut software according to USA Today reports. This is one of those open-source software that is primarily used to create web applications using the Java platform. This was the entry point of the hack.

What to do to protect yourself?

If you believe you are affected, there are a few more tips to look into apart from logging into Equifax and taking in their free one-year offer of TrustedID service. Here are some of them.

Be on top of your credit reports

At this point, you need to be aware that the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to have a free copy of your credit. You can have one free copy every year from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. One thing you can do is to request one report from one of them every four months. This way, you get to monitor your credit all year round on regular intervals.

One reason for doing this is to make sure that you get to check for any irregularities in your finances, especially after the Equifax hack. For one, you can verify if there are any unauthorized accounts or even line of credit opened under your name. As soon as you catch this, report it straight away with the lender that opened the account to prevent any further transactions under it.

Regularly checking your credit report also gives you the chance to monitor for any errors and mistakes. These can have detrimental effects on your credit score. Mistakes are not uncommon in credit reports and the longer they go undetected, the more they pull your scores down. Once you weed out these mistakes, correct them immediately to pull up your score.

Explore a credit freeze

As the name suggests, this freezes your credit and prevents other people from getting access to it. This can be a great tool to prevent accounts being opened under your name. The reason for this is that as creditors need access to your credit, freezing it would prevent them from opening an account because they cannot verify your credit.

Proactive monitoring of your bank accounts

Apart from working with credit reporting bureaus and pulling out regular free reports, you need to monitor your credit card and bank accounts more closely. What you need to do is take a look at activities that you are unfamiliar with. This can already be a result of the Equifax hack where scrupulous entities are trying to use your card or log into your personal bank accounts.

The idea is being proactive with the monitoring and not waiting for your bank or your lender to take action. You can reach out to them and verify if they have any programs to help you monitor your accounts easily but you need to initiate that discussion. It is in your best interest to look for ways to protect your credit.

Put out a fraud alert on your credit

This alert tells creditors that you might be a victim of identity theft and they need to exercise extra due diligence when dealing with your credit. They need to make an extra effort in reaching out to you to confirm any activities in your finances. There are basically three types of fraud alert you can look into in light of the Equifax hack.

An initial fraud alert can be a good protection for 90 days. This is a great first step when you believe you are a victim of identity theft. There is a longer version of this alert simply referred to as extended fraud alert and can last up to seven years. If you are in the military and will be deployed, an active duty military alert will last you a year.

Wise financial moves to lower chances of identity theft

As you move forward with your finances, there are a few more things you can do to help secure your finances and protect them attacks.

Favor cash payment

Whenever possible, it is a lot safer to use cash for payments. This is because you do not have to swipe any credit card and expose your financial information to potential attacks. Using cash also helps you appreciate your finances more as you see the money slipping out of your hands. You are a lot safer and you get to have a whole new perspective on spending and budgeting.

Shred sensitive documents

There are times when you find yourself in front of a mountain of credit statements and other billing documents. After you have opened and paid for them, it is very tempting to simply shove them all down into your garbage can. However, you need to remember that these documents contain very sensitive financial information that scammers can use against you.

Remember that these documents contain information such as you complete name, address, and even account or card number. These are just some of the information hackers can use to take over your identity. It could also list down activities on your account which is one way scammers can get verified by your lenders in changing or modifying your account. With these scenarios in mind, it is best to shred these documents if you are going to throw them out. It is an added layer of protection in the middle of the Equifax hack.

Practice due diligence with online activities

When you regularly shop online, make sure that you are sending out payments from a secured site. It is a good idea to ensure that your anti-virus system in your computers are up to date. It is convenient to save your credit card details on your computer so you can make payments faster. However, once you are hacked, this is one of the first bits of information that is being mined. It might be safer to simply key your details in and clear them up afterwards.

The Equifax hack is just one of the many breaches that have happened in the past. However, there are ways to contain, manage and protect yourself from identity theft.