BOSTON (CBS) – You’ve likely heard about credit monitoring company Equifax and its massive data breach that exposed the personal information of about 143 million Americans from May to July.
Social Security numbers, addresses and credit card data were stolen.
But what if you never had an account with Equifax? Should you still be worried?
“Yes you should,” says CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger. “If you ever actually applied for credit in any way shape or form, this is data that’s out there with Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.”
“This data breach is the biggest wake-up call that we have all had as consumers when it comes to protecting our identities. None of us is actually safe,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.
“This is not IF your data is actually compromised, it’s a question of when. You’ve got a 50-50 shot of actually having your data breached in this particular instance. But going forward, those odds are probably much worse in favor of the fraudsters.”
Equifax said it will waive all security freeze fees for the next 30 days.
But is that enough and how can you protect yourself?
“Step number one – go to equifaxsecurity2017.com and I know that sounds crazy because this is the place where you had your information taken, but you have to begin the process in a methodical way. This is where it starts,” Schlesinger said.
“You’re going to enter the last six digits of your Social (Security number) and your last name and it will pop up whether or not your information has been compromised.”
And if it has been?
“Then immediately you’re going to be pushed to a different part of the web site, which is going to actually allow you to enroll in that free monitoring service for a year. But who cares? It’s only a year! This is going to last way longer than that, so your next step is you add a free fraud alert to any of the big major companies. So that would include Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, Innovis. That fraud alert, for 90 days, you’ll be notified if anyone’s trying to open up credit in your name and your Social,” she told WBZ.
“There’s one more step. You can freeze your credit file. This is a little bit of a tricky one because you have to freeze your file with each of the credit reporting companies and what that does is it prevents anyone from opening up a credit card, getting a loan or doing anything with your Social Security number. Big caveat – that includes yourself,” Schlesinger said.
Listen: Jill Schlesinger talks to WBZ NewsRadio 1030