By now you have probably heard of the massive breach that occurred at Equifax this summer. From May thru July hackers managed to acquire the social security numbers, name and address, credit card numbers and in some cases driver’s license numbers of over 143 million people.  Equifax has offered one-year free monitoring but beware, if you take this offer you may lose any ability to sue if their actions have caused you damage. The legal community has recommended that you do sign up for the free monitoring but make sure to opt out of the arbitration clause. In addition to the one-year monitoring Experian has stated that “if you are a victim of identity theft and submit a valid investigative or incident report or complaint with a law enforcement agency or the Department of Motor Vehicles, the fee will be waived.”

So, with that said, here are some things you can do to protect yourself whether or not you sign up for Equifax’s “free” service.

  • Freeze your credit – For a fee you can freeze your credit so if someone were to get your information and try to open an account in your name they couldn’t. When you freeze your credit you are given a PIN, without that number the credit agencies cannot pull a credit report, no report, no credit. Unfortunately there is not a one stop shop for this, you will have to freeze your credit with each agency – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis.
  • Sign up for Fraud Alerts – Unlike a credit freeze this service is free. Sign up for this with all three of the credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Should anyone try and open a new account you should be contacted by the creditor.
  • Protect yourself from scams and phishing – Equifax will NOT send you an unsolicited email, if you get one don’t open it.
  • Check your credit reports and bank accounts – Closely monitor open accounts for suspicious activities.
  • File your taxes early – As soon as you have all of your tax information file taxes before a scammer can. If you get a letter from the IRS respond immediately.

To learn more about protecting yourself from a data breach go here.