The Equifax data breach impacted approximately 143 million Americans between mid-May and July of this year. One of the worst things about the breach is that Social Security numbers and birthdates were stolen, among other information. Identity theft risk not only includes credit fraud, but other scams, too, such as health insurance fraud and stealing of awards points from your credit card.
Here are some steps to protect you and your family against identity theft:
- Remain attentive and monitor your credit report, credit card activity and bank statements regularly.
- Put an extended fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report. This will limit who can see your report.
- Contact help. If you are a victim of identity theft, you can create an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Work with your employee benefits administrator.
- Contact the Social Security Administration and request a copy of your wage-earning report to be certain that your Social Security number is not being used fraudulently.
- File your taxes early to foil thieves who may try to file and collect a refund before you do.
- Activate two-factor authentication. This is an important extra layer of security and safety. It requires a password as well as a second element, such as a code sent via text to your phone. This authentication should be set up on all of your mobile banking, savings, credit card, home equity line of credit and all other financial accounts that offer it.
Most banks that offer mobile banking also authenticate your device that you use to access your account. Banks with the most cutting-edge security, such as USAA, also use biometric authentication, which verifies your identity using your fingerprint, voice print, or facial recognition. Criminals are not easily able to fake these.
- Also activate two-factor authentication on your email account. When you log into your email from an unfamiliar phone or computer, you will receive a text with the code necessary to complete your login. A hacker can’t get this number without having access to your phone. To be even safer, download an app that authenticates, such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator, which generates these codes without using texts, which can be intercepted.
- Don’t click on strange or suspicious-looking links in your email; these may contain malware which may garner your information.
- Use the FCC Smartphone Security Checker, which will give security tips for your phone’s specific operating system.
- Sign up for a record monitoring and restoration service, such as such as ID Paladin, with MedCareComplete.
Source: Consumer Reports – “How to Lock Down Your Money After the Equifax Breach
N. Boynton – Contributor/Writer