Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit bureaus that accumulate and store the credit records of everyone in America who uses credit, was hacked in late July. The result was that the financial and other personal information of approximately 143 million Americans was stolen by a yet-unknown actor, probably another country. The information taken from Equifax’s data base can be used by criminals to commit identity theft by opening fraudulent accounts and other nefarious activities in the names of people whose credit information was stolen.
To find out if you were among the 143 million Americans affected by the Equifax breach, you can go to Equifax’s website at www.equifax.com, enter the information they request and receive a probable yes/no confirmation.
There are several things you can do to protect yourself, whether or not Equifax thinks your data was stolen:
• Change your PIN numbers on all your accounts NOW.
• Read your account statements especially carefully every time you receive them and immediately report any suspicious charges or other irregularities to your credit union, bank or other credit grantor.
• Freeze your credit accounts so no one else can open fraudulent new accounts in your name. NOTE: If you do want to apply for credit, however, you will need to unfreeze your credit accounts with the three credit bureaus before you apply, and this may take some time to accomplish.
• Invest in a good credit protection program, such as LifeLock. Equifax offers its own credit protection plan for free, but you should shop around, as buying Equifax’s plan might bar you from joining a class action lawsuit if that becomes a possibility for you down the road.
• Check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You are entitled to one free credit report from each once a year. Visit annualcreditreport.com (and be careful to use THIS website; there are several fraudulent sites on-line which ask you to pay for credit reports).
And don’t forget that your Pacific Federal Credit Union is always here to serve your financial needs. If you have questions about your OCFCU accounts relative to the Equifax breach, don’t hesitate to call us or drop by the credit union.