In the wake of Equifax’s recent 143 million consumer data breach, numerous governments and agencies are offering protection tips on how to monitor personal information to prevent identity theft, with Georgia’s Attorney General, Chris Carr, recently joining suit.
How to check if you were affected
1. Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com and click “enroll.” You will be directed to a screen that has two options: “begin enrollment” and “continue enrollment.” Click on “begin enrollment,” which will direct you to a site where you have to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
2. Once you enter your information, a vague message, most likely “we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident,” will appear and an orange button, “Enroll,” will appear.
3. Once clicking on “Enroll,” another screen will pop up with your enrollment date. On or after that date, you can go back to the original security site and click “continue enrollment.”
4. After clicking on “continue enrollment,” you’ll have to once again enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number, which will then take you to a page that has more detailed information.
5. Fill out that information and click submit, and wait for an email, which could take several days to appear.
6. Follow email instructions and continue to keep an eye on your credit reports by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
Carr said in a news release approximately 5 million Georgians were affected by the hack, which occurred between May and July and may have compromised names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers.
“When a data breach occurs, our primary concern is protecting Georgia consumers who may have been impacted,” Carr said.
While the Attorney General’s office is taking steps of their own to find those responsible and protect from further incidents, consumers can and should educate themselves and take their own action, first and foremost by checking whether they were affected.
Equifax has set up a website to deal with the hack, equifaxsecurity2017.com, which provides updated information and the opportunity for consumers to enroll in free security monitoring for one year, which many experts recommend.
In addition, Carr said one of the first steps Georgians should take is freezing their credit, which essentially locks down a person’s credit to prevent thieves from opening credit lines.
“A security freeze (also known as a credit freeze) locks your credit file so that no one can see your credit report or credit score unless you lift the freeze,” the release said. “Since the information in your credit file will not be released to anyone, it makes it nearly impossible for an identity thief to open a new credit account in your name.
“Note that you will need to temporarily lift the freeze (by providing a password) if you wish to apply for a new loan or credit card.”
To place a credit freeze, residents will have to contact each of the U.S.’s three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Carr said residents should also check their credit reports, which can be accessed for free annually at annualcreditreport.com, as well as monitoring their credit cards and bank accounts.
Filing taxes early can also protect a consumer from tax identity theft.
“After a breach, a scammer may commit tax identity theft by using your Social Security number to file a tax return and steal your tax refund,” the release said. “Most victims don’t find out about the fraud until they go to file their tax returns and are informed that someone has already filed a return using their Social Security number, [so] filing your taxes early is one of the best ways to protect yourself from tax identity theft.”
For more information regarding identify theft and how it can be prevented, visit identitytheft.ga.gov.