Steps to protect your personal data after the Equifax data breach

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


While we still don’t know the full ramifications of the Equifax data breach that exposed the personal data of 143 million Americans—over 40 percent of the U.S. population—the stolen data includes birth dates, Social Security numbers and drivers license numbers. Once this information is out there, there’s no getting it back, and hackers may wait years before trying to use your stolen information for their financial gain. Here are steps you can take to help prevent thieves from using your credit and identity.

Review your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Start here or call 877-322-8228. Look for red flags like credit cards or loans you don’t recognize or credit inquiries you didn’t initiate.

Examine your bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity or unauthorized purchases. Moving forward, make it a habit to review your financial accounts.

If your identity or credit has been compromised, set up a personal recovery plan through the Federal Trade Commission. Visit

Freeze your credit reports (all three of them). Different from a credit monitoring service or a fraud alert, a credit freeze is the only tool that will stop new credit and loan accounts from being opened in your name. Creditors will be unable to access your files and therefore will not offer you new credit or a loan. Consumers should freeze their credit reports with each of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Don’t mistake a credit “lock” for a credit freeze. Credit locks only last 12 months and often require you to sign up for a bundle of credit monitoring services offered through the individual credit bureaus. A credit freeze will remain in place until you unfreeze your account. We recommend you opt for the freeze.

Depending on what state you’re in, you may have to pay to freeze—up to $10 per credit report. Victims of identity theft can freeze their files for free. You will have to lift (or “unfreeze”) your account before applying for a loan or credit card. Costs for lifting a freeze range from free to $12 per credit report. Find out how much a credit freeze costs in your state here.

Note: Credit bureaus will provide you with a PIN to unfreeze your credit file. Store the PIN safely.

Think placing a credit freeze on your credit report should be free for all consumers? We do. You can sign this petition to enable consumers to request one free security freeze (and lift) of all three credit files per year.

Enable two-factor authentication. Changing your passwords frequently, especially after a huge data breach, and placing two-factor authentication on your online financial accounts is a good way to add an extra layer of security and protect your personal information. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter an extra code or PIN (in addition to your account’s password), which is sent to you via the email or mobile phone number linked to your account. Consider adding two-factor authentication to all your online accounts, including your email, banking, social media and cloud accounts.

Active-duty alerts for servicemembers. If you’re a servicemember, place an active duty alert on each of your credit reports. This will warn creditors that you’re out of the country. Businesses will then verify your identity before issuing credit or loans in your name.

For more information on active duty alerts, check out Consumer Action's page here.

Join a class-action lawsuit. If you’re a victim of Equifax’s data breach and interested in joining a class action lawsuit against the company, here’s what you’ll need to know.

Until companies are forced to take better precautions and care of consumers’ personal data, the onus is on each of us to protect our private information from being misused.




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