(WKBN) – The recent breach of one of the U.S.’s three main credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, affects about 143 million consumers, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself moving forward, whether or not your personal information has been compromised.
Equifax said the information was compromised between May and June of this year. It includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. The breach also affects about 209,000 credit card numbers, according to Equifax.
The bureau is offering enrollment in the credit monitoring service TrustedID Premier to all U.S. consumers, free-of-charge, for one year. The service also offers copies of your Equifax credit report.
If your information has been affected, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office recommends taking the following steps:
- Check your credit report: This can help you identify signs of potential identity theft. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — which you can access all at once or staggered. Check your credit report
- Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report: Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies. The alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days. It is free and will make it more difficult for someone to open credit in your name.
- Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report: Contact a credit reporting agency to place a freeze. Essentially, this locks your credit so that most third parties can’t access your report. This protects you from unauthorized accounts being opened in your name. Security freezes in Ohio are permanent until you lift them. You could be charged a $5 fee per credit reporting agency to place or remove a freeze. Equifax is offering a free freeze for one year with enrollment in the TrustedID Premier program, though it won’t freeze your Experian and TransUnion reports.
- Beware of scams related to the breach: Don’t give out personal information to those who contact you unexpectedly, claiming they want to help you. They may call or message you, saying they have information about the breach. Be wary about clicking links or downloading attachments. Report a scam
- Monitor your bank accounts: Look for suspicious activity and if you see any, contact your bank or credit provider.
- Consider filing early this tax season: As soon as you have all of the necessary information, file your taxes. This way, there is less of a chance for someone to fraudulently file on your behalf. This is especially important if you know your information has been compromised.
Signs of possible identity theft:
- Unexpected mail about accounts you did not open
- Credit card changes you never made
- Unexpected collection calls
- Another person’s name showing up on your background check or credit report
- Credit reporting errors or a lower-than-expected credit score
If your identity has been stolen, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or OhioProtects.org.