As you may have heard by now, millions of Americans had their personal information exposed by the recent Equifax data breach. Equifax reported, hackers accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, some driver’s license numbers, and about 209,000 credit card numbers. A hundred and eighty-two thousand “dispute documents,” essentially complaint submissions that include personal identifying data, were also compromised in the breach.
If you own a business, there’s even more at stake if your personal information was compromised as many owners use personal credit to run their business. With the security breach, the risk of fraudulent debt could quickly create a detrimental situation for business operations.
Additionally, any blow to your personal/business credit can affect your ability to apply for funding when you need it the most. Although there are alternative funding programs and solutions available regardless of having bad personal credit, most traditional bank lenders will look at personal and business credit scores as a good predictor of repayment of business loans. Recovering from the damage of identity theft is a deep rabbit hole that can take months and many phone calls, forms and letters to fix. Here what to do next:
Check Your Status/Enroll in Identity Theft Projection
If you’ve heard about the breach in the news but still haven’t checked to see if your information was compromised, stop right now and check. Here’s how:
The Equifax website gives the following instructions:
To determine if your personal information may have been impacted by this incident, please follow the below steps:
- Visit the “Check Potential Impact,” link and provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
- Based on that information, you will receive a message indicating whether your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.
- Regardless of whether your information may have been impacted, we will provide you the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier. After checking if you were impacted you will see an option to enroll. The enrollment period ends on Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Notify Your Banks, Lenders and any Creditors
Even if no fraudulent activity has shown up on your accounts, it’s wise to make sure they know you are one of millions potentially affected by the breach. That way if something does happen, you will be one step ahead. Additionally, set up text or emails alerts with each account to flag any suspicious charges, log in attempts etc.
Consider Freezing Your Credit
The least aggressive tactic mentioned above is using a credit monitoring or fraud alert service. Basically, it’s just a service which tracks your credit at all three credit agencies and send alerts for suspicious activity. The most aggressive step is a credit freeze. When there is a freeze on your credit, lending companies etc… won’t be able to pull your credit report unless the freeze is lifted. You can opt to freeze your file temporarily or permanently. Credit freezes need to be completed with all three credit agencies, which may cost a small fee. For more information on credit freeze, visit the FTC Credit Freeze FAQ.
Make an Official Identity Theft Report
If you really want to safeguard yourself, you can follow legal steps to report the identity theft by creating an identity theft report and personal recovery plan with the Federal Trade Commission. But be forewarned, it’s a very detailed process. Here is a check list.
While this is a tedious extra step, having the legal documents in place will help settle any disputes you may make against fraudulent activity in the future.
After taking all the steps you possibly can, it really amounts to just a waiting game. While the looming possibility of a fallout from identity theft is stressful, the most important thing is to remain up to date and aware of all activity on your accounts on a regular basis. The quicker you dispute fraudulent activity, the better. Staying on top of your accounts means you can report suspicious activity as soon as it happens, which may help resolving it easier.