By Lori Swanson
Equifax, a major national credit bureau, recently announced a massive data breach affecting 143 million consumers nationwide. Hackers stole highly sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. The company indicates that data on over 2 million Minnesota residents was compromised.
People can take the following additional steps to protect against identity theft as a result of Equifax’s data breach:
STEPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Monitor your credit reports and financial accounts for unauthorized activity. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report each year by any of the following methods: (1) Log on to www.AnnualCreditReport.com; (2) Call (877) 322-8228; (3) Write: Annual Credit Report Request Service at P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. If you spot suspicious activity, immediately alert your financial institution and local law enforcement.
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit reports, which requires creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or increasing your credit limit. To do so, call any one of the three major credit bureaus at the following numbers: (1) Experian: (888) 397-3742; (2) TransUnion: (800) 680-7289; or (3) Equifax: (800) 525-6285.
- Consider placing a security “freeze” on your credit reports. This is supposed to prevent the release of any information from your credit report without your written authorization, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts. For more information on how to place a credit freeze, you may download our brochure, entitled Protect Yourself from Identity Theft, available at www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Publications.asp.
- If you suspect someone is misusing your Social Security number, report the fraud to the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213, and the Internal Revenue Service’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION THROUGH EQUIFAX
Equifax has established a website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, that you may check to determine if your personal information was exposed as part of the data breach. Equifax is also offering one year of free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection services. People have until November 21, 2017, to enroll by completing the enrollment process at its website.
For more information, the Minnesota Attorney General’s website at www.ag.state.mn.us has publications titled “What to do when your personal information is breached,” “Protect yourself from identity theft,” and “Guarding your privacy.” They are downloadable from the site at www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Publications.asp.
Lori Swanson is the Minnesota Attorney General.