Your personal information has been hacked! No one likes to hear those words. But millions of people have after it was disclosed this week that Equifax was hacked earlier this year. Given the amount of personal information that is on computers today, there is no way to guarantee that your information won’t be stolen. But there are a few simple things you can do to better protect your information:
Use your debit card minimally. If your debt card information is stolen, a hacker can wipe out the funds in any account tied to the debit card before you even know the information has been stolen. Your bank/credit union will probably return the funds to you after you fill out and submit the appropriate forms. However, that will take time and you will not have access to any of those funds while you wait.
If a credit card/debit card account has been compromised, call your bank/credit union and cancel the card. Then, fill out the appropriate forms with the bank/credit union to dispute the withdrawals or charges that are not yours. Also, you should monitor activity on any other accounts and credit cards to make sure the thieves don’t have access to all your accounts.
If your identity has been stolen and people are opening accounts in your name, then you have a bigger problem. You should file a police report and a fraud report with the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338. Then go to the Federal Trade Commission website, www.IdentityTheft.gov. It gives detailed instructions on what to do if your social security number was stolen, and if people are setting up credit card accounts in your name, etc.
For those who are affected by the Equifax data breach, some suggestions for what to do are as follows:
- Find out through Equifax’s website whether or not your information was included in the data breach.
- You can enroll for one free year of crediting monitoring by Equifax.
- You can get a free credit report from all three credit reporting companies to make sure no one has requested credit. You are entitled to one free credit report per year. You can order a credit report from all three companies by calling 1-877-322-8228.
- You should monitor all your accounts to make sure all charges are ones that you authorized.
- You can place a credit freeze with the three credit reporting companies. This will reduce anyone’s ability to get credit in your name. There is a charge for credit freezes. You will have to contact the credit reporting companies to get the freeze lifted if you want to open a new account.
- You can place a fraud alert with the three credit reporting companies. Creditors then have to verify your identity before issuing credit.
About the Author
Nancy B. Johnson
Nancy has been with the Firm since 1994 and practices in the areas of general business, collections, intellectual property law (trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets), construction law and business litigation. She is a shareholder in the Firm. Learn more.