In early September, Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting bureaus, announced as many as 143 million Americans may have been affected by a data breach they experienced.
Data at risk includes Social Security Numbers, birth dates and addresses. Some drivers license numbers were also compromised as well as roughly 209,000 credit card numbers. Due to the widespread media coverage of this breach, you may be wondering how this may affect you and what you can do to protect your identity.
First, visit Equifax's website, www.equifax.com.
A link is provided on their page which allows anyone to check whether or not it's likely their information is included in the breach. You will need to provide your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security Number. Once it's determined your information may be affected, you'll be invited to Enroll in Free Credit Monitoring for one year through their service, TrustedID Premier.
Included in their service is:
- a copy of your credit report
- credit file monitoring for all 3 of the major credit bureaus
- social security monitoring
- credit report lock
- and up to $1 million ID theft insurance.
Citizens National Bank also offers credit monitoring services through Deluxe. If you prefer to use this service, there is a link on the Protect Personal Information page of our website. It goes directly to the deluxeprovent.ezshield.com website where you may enroll online.
Secondly, review your credit report on an annual basis.
You may download a free copy at www.annualcreditreport.com. Look for any accounts/loans that you're not aware of. Anything suspicious should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission through www.IdentityTheft.gov. You may also contact the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records in order to prevent any new accounts being opened without you being aware. This only lasts for 90 days at a time so you would need to be diligent about renewing it.
It's also recommended for extra peace of mind that you place a freeze on your credit. You will need to do this with each credit bureau, Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion, separately. There may be a fee to place the freeze, thaw or unfreeze a credit report, however this ensures no one may apply for credit under your name, including you, until a pre-set PIN is provided to "thaw" the report.
Third, it's vitally important you monitor your accounts on a regular basis.
Take advantage of alerts offered through services such as CardValet to monitor use of debit and credit cards or our Online Banking alerts to regularly look at account balances and review transactions.
Data breaches pose a potential risk to consumers in the form of identity theft, account takeover and fraud when personal and sensitive information is compromised. Be diligent and cautious with sharing information online.