Identity theft can happen to anyone. Even if you're careful, a thief may be able to attain your information by hacking into the systems of larger businesses, as millions of people learned last year with the Equifax data breach.
The rise of data breaches
The Equifax data breach in 2017 showed that even if you're vigilant about protecting your personal information, it may still be compromised. In this breach, hackers stole information from 143 million Americans, including people's names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver's license numbers, as well as the credit card numbers of 209,000 people. Equifax has set up a page for those who may have been impacted:Equifaxsecurity2017.com. Due to the size of the breach, Equifax has made everyone eligible for a year of free credit monitoring.
What to do if you're the victim of a data breach:
The first thing you should do if you suspect you're a victim is to check all of your credit reports-Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-by getting a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. If you've already accessed your credit report this year, you may have to pay a fee.
Next, monitor your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized activity and review each charge carefully. If you find or suspect you're a victim of fraudulent activity put a freeze on your credit file. You may also place a fraud alert on your credit file to warn creditors that your identity was stolen. Additionally, file your taxes early to prevent a scammer from filing for you and collecting your refund.
What to do if your information has been stolen:
Although credit card microchips have curtailed counterfeiting, thieves gave become focused on opening new accounts with stolen information.
If your debit or credit card number has been stolen:
- Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and get a new one.
- Review all of your transactions and call the fraud department if you notice fraudulent charges.
- Update your automatic payments with the new card number as soon as it arrives.
If your bank account information has been stolen:
- Contact your bank to close your account and open a new one.
- Review your transactions and contact the fraud department to report false charges.
- Update automatic payments with your new information.
If your driver's license information has been stolen:
- Contact the DMV and report your license stolen. The state may then flag the number in case someone tries to use it.