Typing your last name and final six digits of your social security number into Equifax’s website is sort of like getting a sore tooth looked at by the dentist — you know you need to do it, but the potential bad news you receive could lead to future pain. In this case, it is less of a root canal and more identity theft.
I’m not sure which is more painful.
To recap recent events, Equifax is one of three major consumer credit-reporting agencies, with data on more than 820 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide. In early September, EquiFax revealed that hackers may have stolen financial and consumer data for at least 143 million customers in the US. Among the information which hackers may have had access to include: birthdates, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and addresses.
Research shows that older adults are scammed out of around $3 billion a year. This makes fraud and scam a big deal to AARP at the national level and it has dedicated Fraud Watch team, to fight back. This group went into high gear around the Equifax data breach and came up with a list of recommendations for protecting your identity after this data breach: The Fraud Watch recommendations include:
• Equifax has created a website (equifaxsecurity2017.com) where consumers can find out if their personal data has been compromised and is at risk. Enter your name and it will give you a likelihood of your information’s involvement in the breach. Consumers can also enroll for complimentary identity-theft protection and credit-file monitoring. The credit protection service is free for 12 months for consumers — not just breach victims — who sign up by Nov. 21. Equifax has also established a toll-free response line for additional questions at 866-447-7559.
• Check your credit report with the other two big credit bureaus, TransUnion and Experian.
• Add a fraud alert to your credit report. This notifies lenders and creditors checking your credit report to take additional steps to verify your identification before extending credit in your name. To do this call one of the companies and ask for an initial fraud alert on your credit report.
• Check credit card and bank statements for unauthorized purchases or withdrawals.
• Consider an identity theft protection service. Remember, no service can protect you from having your personal information stolen. What these companies offer are monitoring and recovery services. Monitoring services watch for signs that an identity thief may be using your personal information. Recovery services help you deal with the effects of identity theft after it happens.
Sam Shumway is the AARP Wyoming state president.