How To Find Out If You Were Affected In The Equifax Breach
The recent Equifax breach affects over 143 million American taxpayers.
As you might imagine, this could wreak havoc for those affected and you may not even know you’ve been affected until you go to file your taxes next year.
The data breach gave hackers access to the Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers of people around the world, and as mentioned above 143 million American taxpayers. Criminals can use all of that date to steal identities, so there are sure to be consequences in the short term and long term. One of those long-term ramications could be that a criminal will use your personal information to file a bogus tax return in 2018.
So, the first question to ask is, how do you find out if you and your family members have been affected. Go to the Equifax website at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine if you or anyone in your family has been affected. In addition, women who have recently married need to check their maiden name.
Enroll To Protect Your Credit
Equifax is offering a one-year free credit monitoring service that is available through November 21st. Once you’ve determined whether or not you have been affected in the breach, click on “Enroll” to complete the process for free credit monitoring. Be sure to complete this process on or before Nov. 21.
Next, you’ll want to obtain and review your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies per year. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com. Be cautious though because there are many websites that imitate this service.
Also, you may want to consider placing a credit freeze on your credit reports. This is a process that must be done with all three of the credit reporting agencies. Once you do place a freeze on your credit you must be aware that if you need access to your credit for any reason, such as applying for a mortgage, auto loan or home equity loan, you will need to unfreeze your credit and then refreeze it once your credit needs are completed. There is usually a fee charged every time you freeze and unfreeze your account, although Equifax is offering free credit freezes through Nov. 21.
Contact information for the three reporting agencies:
Equifax: www.equifax.com, 800-349-9960
Experian: www.experian.com, 800-397-3742
TransUnion: www.transunion.com, 888-909-8872
You may also want to think about using a credit monitoring service. Most of them charge a monthly fee but continually monitor your credit and will assist you in the event that you are a victim of ID theft. Find out if anyone you know uses a service they can recommend.
File Your Tax Returns Early
One of the most important things you can do to prevent criminals from making use of your information to file a bogus tax return is to file your tax returns as early as possible. Whoever gets the returns to the IRS first is the one that wins in this event. If a criminal tries to file with your information after you’ve filed, they will be found out. If you are second, your life will become disastrous as you try to unravel the fraud.