Borrowing

5 Steps to Take Now to Protect Yourself After the Equifax Data Breach

Erin Lowry

In early September, Equifax, one of the three credit bureaus, admitted it got hacked, compromising the information of 143 million Americans, including me. If you were affected—and there’s a good chance you were, since it affects more than 44 percent of the population—you now have to worry about your name, address, Social Security number, birth date and, possibly, driver’s license number being sold. (Thanks, Equifax.)

That’s all the information anyone needs for a complete identity takeover. So what can you do to protect yourself?

1. Find out if you’ve been affected.

I immediately checked the Equifax site to see if my info may have been compromised. The first time I tried, all I got was a “thank you” pop up, encouraging me to enroll in TrustedID Premier, Equifax’s identity theft protection service. (See #4.) When I checked again two days later, I got confirmation that I’d likely been affected by the breach.

2. Pull a credit report and check your score.

I pulled copies of my credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com from all three bureaus and scanned them for unusual activity. (You can get one copy from each for free every 12 months.)

I also checked my score on Credit Karma, Credit Wise, Discover Credit Scorecard and through my credit cards that offer access to my credit score. Monitoring your score’s a simple way to flag ID theft, as a sudden drop could indicate someone is applying for credit in your name or a debt you didn’t create is in collections.

3. Lock it down.

I’m not planning to apply for credit in the upcoming months, so I took the extra measure of initiating a credit freeze. This makes it difficult for identity thieves to open new lines of credit with my information—and doesn’t compromise my credit score or current lines of credit. I can “thaw” my report(s) for lenders by contacting the credit bureau and providing the PIN I was given when it was frozen.

Each credit bureau (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) offers the option. Just note that some states charge a fee for the service—typically between $5 to $10 per bureau—and you may need to pay another fee to unfreeze it.

Don’t want to go that route? You can still sign up for fraud alerts, which should notify lenders your information may have been compromised.

4. Consider enrolling in ID Theft protection and monitoring.

Equifax is providing free ID theft monitoring for the first year to those affected. (It’s not clear how much you’ll pay after that—it’s nowhere on the terms of service—though the agency claims it will not automatically continue your enrollment you after the complimentary year.)

But remember, it was just hacked. So, you may not want to rely solely on them. Other theft programs include Identity Guard and LifeLock.

Before enrolling in any monitoring service, read the terms and conditions closely. Last week, eagle-eyed consumers noticed an arbitration clause in the Equifax fine print and balked. The agency has since clarified that consumers will not be blocked from participating in class action lawsuits as a result of this breach.

5. Stay proactive.

I’ll be checking my credit score monthly to look out for any significant change and doing my best to stay vigilant. It also doesn’t hurt to change passwords! Identity thieves play the long game, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if nothing happens in the next couple months.

acorns+cnbcacorns cnbc

Join Acorns

GET STARTED

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. The contents presented herein are provided for general investment education and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any specific securities or engage in any particular investment strategy. Acorns is not engaged in rendering any tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for this type of advice.

Any references to past performance, regarding financial markets or otherwise, do not indicate or guarantee future results. Forward-looking statements, including without limitations investment outcomes and projections, are hypothetical and educational in nature. The results of any hypothetical projections can and may differ from actual investment results had the strategies been deployed in actual securities accounts. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Advisory services offered by Acorns Advisers, LLC (“Acorns Advisers”), an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Brokerage and custody services are provided to clients of Acorns Advisers by Acorns Securities, LLC (“Acorns Securities”), a broker-dealer registered with the SEC and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC”). Acorns Pay, LLC (“Acorns Pay”) manages Acorns’s demand deposit and other banking products in partnership with Lincoln Savings Bank, a bank chartered under the laws of Iowa and member FDIC. Acorns Advisers, Acorns Securities, and Acorns Pay are subsidiaries of Acorns Grow Incorporated (collectively “Acorns”). “Acorns,” the Acorns logo and “Invest the Change” are registered trademarks of Acorns Grow Incorporated. Copyright © 2019 Acorns and/or its affiliates.

NBC Universal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns Grow Incorporated.