200,000 credit cards were stolen in the Equifax hack; complete with card numbers and expiration dates. Monitor your credit cards statements closely. Investigate any charges that look unfamiliar no matter how small. Often cards are tested with small purchases.
The 3 times my credit card has been accessed, the credit card company caught 2, as they were large and unusual purchases for me i.e. $800 of janitorial supplies in Florida. The third time was a small charge that slipped past the credit card company. I called the company phone number listed on the statement to confirm I had not done business with them.
Equifax is offering free credit card monitoring. Trans Union is temporarily free. To really protect your credit, you need to freeze your credit at all 3 credit bureaus. (Look at Protect Yourself From Identity Theft for contact information.) Credit monitory only alerts you when there is a problem, it doesn’t prevent stolen identity. A credit freeze prevents anybody taking credit out in your name.
What I am reading and clients emails, Equifax has been difficult to place a credit freeze. They have been hard to reach by phone; then requesting submission of your requests by mail. Some have had success on-line; others have had problems reading their PIN- the number needed to lift the credit freeze.
Be patient and be persistent to get your credit freeze put in place. If you mail your information, send it overnight or certified. You need to track the sending and receiving. If you notify Equifax by mail, they will mail your PIN to you.
Keep your PIN with your important paper file. You may need it later if you move, buy a car, employer background check.
The breach at Equifax occurred because they were lax in updating their software. Apache Struts software sent out a patch to fix a security issue in March. Equifax delayed installing the patch until May, resulting in their security breach.
Their error should be a lesson to us- make all software updates immediately. Hackers look for those opportunities to gain access. Microsoft has had numerous updates lately, 25 of them more critical. Be sure you set your computers for auto updates.
One Possible positive result from this chaos; the senate is drafting a bill banning credit bureaus from charging consumers for a credit freeze. This is one I think may get a unanimous vote! It gets mine!