Equifax data breach: How to protect your information

Equifax Inc.
This July 21, 2012, photo shows Equifax Inc., offices in Atlanta. Credit monitoring company Equifax says a breach exposed social security numbers and other data from about 143 million Americans. The Atlanta-based company said Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, that "criminals" exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Are you a victim of the Equifax data breach?

More than 140 million Americans have had their sensitive data exposed to hackers who infiltrated the files of Equifax, one of the nation’s major credit reporting agencies.

To see if you’re a victim, you’ll need your social security number, and make sure you are on a secure private computer and not on a public computer.

  • Go to: equifaxsecurity2017.com
  • Click Potential Impact (in blue, right under the headline)
  • Enter your last name and last six digits of your SSN

What to do next

If you are affected by the breach, here’s advice from the Consumer Division of the Federal Trade Commission on the next steps to take:

  • 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. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.

If you choose to freeze your credit to prevent someone else from opening new accounts in your name, the fee is $10 for Virginia residents and free for North Carolina residents.

Explainer: How a credit freeze works

If you’d rather contact Equifax by phone, dial 1-800-349-9960. Some viewers have had difficulty getting through on this number, so an alternate number for Equifax is 1-800-685-1111.

You can also contact other credit reporting agencies at the following numbers:
Experian — 1 888 397 3742
TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
Innovis — 1-800-540-2505