The last week has been dominated by the headline of the Equifax Data Breach. If you’ve been living a social-media free life (good for you), you might not have heard that the personal information of 143 million people were stolen from Equifax – including names, addresses, and SSNs.The ironic part of this story is that Equifax is a credit reporting agency – the “keeper” of your credit report and score – the basic information they lost to hackers.When these events happen (data breaches), the media, and in turn the public, seem to lose their minds about everything from their finances to their personal information, to even their basic banking accounts. Suddenly, everybody is talking about it like this event somehow wiped away everyone’s savings accounts or something major.
What’s even scarier is the sad realization that most people don’t realize how much of their information is already out there – and how much of it has been lost, stolen, misplaced, misused, etc.In the last several years, I’ve had:
Look, a lot of places are telling consumers “call all the credit bureaus and freeze your credit immediately”. But for most people, that’s simply not practical. Most of us use our credit reports pretty regularly (and most don’t realize it). Furthermore, it typically costs money to freeze your credit (although some companies are waiving that fee temporarily), and it’s just a waste of money. There are better ways to avoid getting your identity stolen.There’s really only 4 things that you need to do to protect yourself, your credit, and your identity:
The thought of getting your identity stolen is a bit scary. But the odds of it actually impacting your life is very rare. Yes, your credit card might be used in some foreign country – oh well, you get a new card. Yes, someone opened a credit card in your name. More of a hassle, but you file a report, contact the card issuer and credit bureau, and get it taken care of.The bottom line is that it’s not the end of the world. There’s already so much information about you out there, the only thing you can do is take the preventative steps above and monitor your information.