Equifax Data Breach: What to do now to Safeguard Your Information and Avoid Being Scammed

By: April Lewis-Parks, Director of Education and Corporate Communications, KOFE

The latest big data breach has been reported all over the news and you might be wondering what to do or how it may affect you.

Equifax has been breached and it’s said that 143 million U.S. consumers could be affected.  Cybercrime is becoming more prolific and you need to protect yourself.  We strongly suggest that you consider freezing your credit as a precaution.  Contact each of the credit reporting agencies individually. Their contact information is:

Equifax — 1-800-349-9960 or https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian — 1-888-397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872 or https://www.transunion.com/freeze

You’ll have to provide your personal information and pay a small fee, except from Equifax who is providing the freeze for free since they were breached.

After they receive your freeze request, each agency will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place as you will need it if you choose to lift the freeze, for example, to refinance your mortgage or take out an auto loan, etc.

By freezing your credit, you will block anyone from accessing your credit, which should prevent thieves from taking out credit cards in your name.

Freezing your credit will not prevent all identity theft.  You may also want to consider subscribing to a trusted company that specializes in protecting identity. For example, LifeLock is currently offering a 10% discount in addition to a 30 day trial on their Identity Protection products.

Precaution is the best way to approach these uncertain times and it is important to take control of what you can.

And be wary of scams connected to the Equifax breach.  People have been calling consumers trying to trick them into giving them their personal information. Here are tips for recognizing imposter scams and things to do if you are called:

  • Don’t give out personal information. Don’t provide any personal or financial information unless you have initiated the call and it’s a phone number you know is correct.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
  • If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
  • If you’ve already received a call that you think is fake, report it to the FTC.

The KOFE financial wellness portal has additional information to help you prevent identity theft and learn how to protect yourself.  www.kofetime.com

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KOFE (Knowledge of Financial Education) is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for Financial Literacy. More educational resources and contact information are available at www.nafcu.org/KOFE.