BOSTON (CBS) - In speaking at a workshop last week, I was very surprised at how few of the attendees had checked their credit reports after the recent Equifax hack. Over half the adult population of Massachusetts has had their personal information exposed. 3 million folks! 143 million nationwide.
This is serious stuff. Whoever has your information may not use it now to buy something with your credit card but because there is so much information available they can use it for years. They now have your name, birth date, address, Social Security number, credit card numbers. Scammers can easily set up a new identity, file fraudulent income tax returns and get credit cards using your information.
So, you need to be proactive here. Log onto the Equifax website and see if you have been impacted.
Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don't recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your files at all three reporting agencies. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. But a credit freeze won't prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. A credit freeze at Equifax is free and $5 for Experian & TransUnion.
Enroll in the Equifax credit monitoring service, which is free for one year to those impacted by the data breach. Change your online passwords frequently.
Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don't recognize. You can set up it so every time there is a charge on your credit card you will get an alert by text or e-mail.
You can also ask your credit card companies for a new card with a new number which is what I have done.
Considering filing your taxes early for a thief now has enough information about you to file a fraudulent tax return and get your refund.
One more thing:
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
You can hear Dee Lee's expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m. and 3:55 p.m.
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