South Florida

It’s Not Too Late to Protect Yourself Following Equifax Breach

A survey done a few weeks after the Equifax breach was announced found only one in four people checked their credit scores or reports because of it. And that survey by found 53 percent of people heard about the breach and did nothing about it.

But April Lewis-Parks with Consolidated Credit Counseling says it's not too late.

"They got social security numbers, birth dates, in some cases credit card numbers and driver license numbers," she said about the massive breach.

It's estimated hackers stole that information from more than 145 million people.

The first step you can take is to find out if your information was stolen. Click here to go to the page devoted to helping you find out. Make sure the page has an image of a padlock and the letters https in the URL address.

Scroll down until you see the words "Am I Impacted?"

You'll need to input your last name and last six digits of your social security number.

If it was, you can enroll in a free credit monitoring service that Equifax is offering free from a year on that same site.

Lewis-Parks also recommends doing a credit freeze.

"Equifax is giving everyone a free credit freeze for one year. You have to enroll by January to get the freeze. But then you should also freeze your credit with the other bureaus," she recommended.

Those other credit reporting agencies, Experian and Transunion, will charge you $10 each to freeze and unfreeze your credit.

"A freeze means no one will be able to get new credit in your name, without consulting you first," Lewis-Parks said.

Your current creditors will still have access to your credit report, but new lines of credit won’t be granted access to your report without your consent. The downside, the next time you ask for credit, there may be a delay.

"For instance, if you go to the store and they offer you a credit card, 10 percent off, 20 percent off, get the discount now, you might not be able to get that offer," she warned.

That’s because the credit agency will have to consult you and unfreeze your report to grant access to that new creditor.

"It delays the credit granting process with loans, also car loans, homes, things will just take a little longer," she said. "It won’t be as instant but to have the safety to know that you’re protected is well worth it.

Even people who weren't clients of Equifax could be impacted. But clients who pay for credit monitoring service through the company will not be charged for that service for now.

You should also keep an eye on bank statements. If you see a charge from Equifax, dispute it immediately.

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