From the desk of Lance Haver, Director of Civic Engagement for Philadelphia City Council.
As you may know, the credit reporting agency Equifax recently announced that hackers had breached their databases and obtained the names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and other information of 143 million Americans. At least 200,000 people had their credit card numbers stolen as well.
Quite frankly this is very troubling. It can take months of hard work to fix the problems that identity theft can create. Please consider taking some time to protect your identity. The Federal Trade Commission is making the following recommendations:
- Find out if your information was exposed. Visit Equifax’s web site and click on the “Potential Impact” tab, enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
- Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can obtain a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
- You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies at this site. This is only free site authorized by federal law.
Equifax is offering free services to all U.S. consumers due to the breach. Visit Equifax’s website.
Consumer Reports, a nonprofit magazine which does not accept advertising recommends you do more. They suggest you sign up for a fraud alert, security freeze, or both:
- A fraud alert lasts 90 days and can be renewed. It tells potential lenders to contact you before they offer credit. If you sign up with Trans Union, Equifax or Experian, they will notify the other two companies. If you want Innovis, a smaller agency, to list a fraud alert, you must contact them directly.
- A security freeze will stop most businesses from accessing your credit history and if you want to apply for credit or purchase something that requires a credit check like a cell phone, you must turn the freeze on and off. The credit reporting agencies do usually charge a fee for a security freeze.
Please be careful! The credit reporting agencies are changing how they respond almost daily. Some of the so-called security measures are really fee for services offers. Others maybe scammers trying to steal your identity. You can get more information on potential scams by visiting Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Schapiro’s Equifax breach information page.
Web sites for the credit reporting agencies are:
If you have had problems with a credit reporting agency or believe you have had your identity stolen and would like some help, please feel free to email me at [email protected] . I will do the best I can to assist you.
Photo: Used under Creative Commons license.