NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The massive hack of the credit reporting company Equifax has raised a lot of questions and concerns.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the private information of tens of millions of people is now at risk – even yours. So what should you do?
The gravity of the Equifax security breach is immense, with hackers gaining access to the personal information of 143 million people.
If you have ever applied for a line of credit, or even a lease for an apartment, the three major credit monitoring companies – Equifax, Transunion, and Experian – likely have our information, and you could be affected.
“It’s very scary,” one consumer said.
“I have not checked,” another said.
Equifax has set up a dedicated website and telephone number — 866-447-7559 — to check if you are among the hacked and sign up for free credit monitoring.
Victims whose Social Security numbers, birth dates and driver’s license numbers are now exposed could be victims of identity theft. CBS News Financial Analyst Jill Schlesinger said the best line of defense is putting your credit on ice – which you can do on the Equifax website.
“A credit freeze essentially prevents anyone from opening new credit in your name, and that also includes you,” Schlesinger said, “and that’s why it’s a bit of a pain in the neck, but it really is the safest approach to take.”
But a credit freeze is problematic for people who need to keep their credit report open as they need to secure a loan, perhaps buy a home or a car. Cyber security expert Adam Levin said those consumers need to sign up for free credit report fraud alerts.
“If your score takes a sudden precipitous, unexplained drop, it could be that you’re the victim of some form of identity theft,” said cyber security expert Adam Levin.
But once you secure the loan, experts said follow their blanket advice for everyone – freeze your credit indefinitely.
Equifax is currently offering a 30-day credit freeze. Afterward, the service will come with a fee.
“It’s worth the investment and it’s a little bit cumbersome, but it’s a lot better than what you’re going to go through in the event you become compromised,” Levin said.
The Equifax breach could have a ripple effect for years to come, with scams already in the making, so security experts said the best time to let your guard down is never.
Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring, which after public outcry no longer requires consumers to give up certain rights in order to join.