An estimated 143 million Americans may have been affected by the Equifax breach. Equifax is one of the three credit bureaus responsible for compiling and analyzing the financial information of American consumers. Hackers stole Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birth dates, financial purchases and other important information.
With this information, hackers could commit identity theft on a massive scale. Depending on the information stolen from you, other people could make large purchases or sign loans in your name. For example, a person with your stolen information could sign a lease for vehicle or take out a line of credit without your permission. They could also access your existing accounts.
Fortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has announced tips that you and millions of other American consumers can use to avoid identity theft. These tips include:
- Placing a credit freeze: You can place a temporary freeze on your credit to prevent new lines of credit from being opened. However, this costs money and you must place a freeze with each credit bureau. If a freeze is placed, creditors will not be able to access your credit information. This also means that you will be unable to open new lines of credit unless you temporarily lift the freeze, which may also cost money.
- Using fraud alerts: You can place a fraud alert on your credit reports. If you place a fraud alert with one credit bureau, then it must notify the others. An alert would prompt creditors to ask for more information before opening a new line of credit. You can place an alert for 90 days or for seven years (an extended fraud alert). The extended fraud alert requires creditors to call you in person before a new credit account can be opened.
- Enrolling in a credit monitoring service: Financial institutions offer credit monitoring services. These services may alert you to potential signs of identity theft, such as an account being opened that you did not authorize. You may want to ask about these services on your next visit to the bank. However, most credit monitoring services are not free.
What are the Signs of Identity Theft?
There are many signs of identity theft you should watch for in the coming months. Check for missing money from bank accounts, accounts on credit reports that you did not authorize, incorrect information on your credit report, credit inquiries from companies you have not contacted and incorrect amounts on existing credit accounts. If you notice signs of identity theft, then contact the credit bureaus and your state Attorney General’s office for further assistance.
The Kansas City bankruptcy attorneys at The Sader Law Firm can help you discover possible solutions for difficult financial problems.