Local financial coach explains how you can protect yourself in Equifax breach

Local financial coach explains how you can protect yourself in Equifax breach

After the Equifax data breach potentially exposed 143 million Americans' personal information - including Social Security numbers - money expert Clark Howard has said a credit freeze is the #1 way to protect your identity.

Originally there was speculation that enrollment would've prevented you from suing the company or joining a class action lawsuit related to the credit breach.

- Closely monitor your own credit reports, which are available free once a year, and stagger them to see one every four months.

Equifax added that credit card numbers of around 209,000 USA consumers and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information of around 182,000 US consumers were accessed. It's all the more egregious, he said, for a credit monitoring company to sit on evidence of a hack and to allow corporate insiders to sell shares before disclosing the breach publicly.

Assume thieves have your information. Warner in 2014 chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers' online systems. Sen. Now you also pay attention to your bank and credit card statements as well as your credit rating. The data they collect include birth dates, addresses, driver's license numbers and even Social Security numbers - the skeleton keys to your financial life. It failed in that duty when, from mid-May through July 2017, criminals exploited vulnerabilities in its website to access the personal information of millions of people. "My team and I will do everything we can to protect consumers". Some of these requests are now even coming by automated phone messages and mobile phone texts, asking consumers to enter their credit or debit card numbers for some kind of verification. Credit monitoring companies make big money; a year ago, Equifax had net income of almost $500 million on revenues of more than $3.1 billion. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold, or have a neighbor pick up your mail, when you are away from home for more than a couple of days.

Yes, you can still use your credit cards.

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"Just because se your credit is bad doesn't mean it's actually a protection for you".

If anyone has opened a line of credit in your name, it will show up on your report and you'll have to dispute it. Credit bureau staff will review your report with you.

A credit freeze offers the best firewall against your data being misused because it restricts access to your records. Furthermore, if you pay for this freeze and then want to temporarily lift it in order to get a mortgage, rent an apartment, buy a vehicle or get a job, guess what? As one of the premier firms in the country handling major complex cases, Cohen Milstein, with 90 attorneys, has offices in Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Denver, CO; and Raleigh, NC. Equifax should be required to provide the credit monitoring service in perpetuity.

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The lawsuit will be the first of many by state attorneys general, with investigations by the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation likely to follow, said Jon Barooshian, a former prosecutor in MA who isn't involved in the case. You Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Bev O'Shea is a writer at NerdWallet.