The massive data hack of Equifax, one of America’s three largest credit reporting agency, resulted in the theft of social security numbers, dates of birth, names and addresses of 143 million Americans—about 60% of the adult population of the United States.
With that information, thieves could steal your identity to take out new loans in your name, alter your existing accounts, and ruin your good credit. While there isn’t much good news about a hack of this size, you may be able protect yourself. Here are the steps you need to take sooner rather than later.
- Find out if your information was compromised. Visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ and click the “check potential impact” button.
- If it says your information was likely stolen, at a minimum you should sign up for the free credit monitoring Equifax is offering for a year.
Even with this level of protection, thieves still have your personal information and could use it to apply to lenders who don’t use Equifax. And because the thieves have your social security number, they could wait and use it a year or five or ten years from now.
Here are some other steps you should consider taking, adapted from the Federal Trade Commission’s recommendations:
- Start checking your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You can check each one time a year for free. Space them out in four month intervals, so you’re regularly getting up-to-date information. If you see evidence of identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. A credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts, but implementing a freeze at all three of the major credit bureaus means they won’t be able to issue a report to any company that doesn’t already have you has a customer, making it harder for the thieves to use your information to open a new line of credit. You can unfreeze it with a special PIN when you want to apply for a new loan.
- Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your social security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
Members have several tools available to them to monitor their RTN account activity. These include:
- Mobile Banking text alerts for RTN saving and checking account activity.
- Email alerts for RTN saving and checking account activity.
- CardValet to set up VISA Debit card alerts and/or lock the card so that it cannot be used.
- Credit card text and email alerts.
By putting a freeze on your accounts, checking your credit reports regularly and monitoring activity on your existing accounts, you’ll be doing everything you can to protect yourself.