Equifax knows you — even if you don’t know Equifax. It’s one of the three large credit bureaus that collect information on all your financial transactions from banks, credit card companies, merchants, mortgage lenders, landlords and utilities — just about every company to which you make payments or from which you borrow. And much of that information, on almost every adult in America, has just been exposed to hackers.
So what should you do to protect your credit? —————
Start checking your banking and credit information regularly. It has been a few months since the breach, so the hackers have a good head start. And they also can be patient. Check your existing bank and credit card balances online at least weekly. And don’t file your paper statements without opening and scanning them.
Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your totally free copy of your credit report. It’s not just the balances on your existing accounts that need watching. This time you are looking for newly opened accounts, something that could easily be done with the information that was stolen.
Consider “freezing” your credit. Contact each of the three bureaus. It will cost you a small amount to freeze and later un-freeze your credit report. But it will protect against someone using your personal information to open new accounts. Of course, if you are buying life insurance, refinancing your home, buying a car or even applying for a job — typical situations in which a credit report would be pulled — you’ll have to selectively unfreeze your report.