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After the announcement last week of Equifax’s data breach, here are some steps you can take to protect your identity:
Step 1: Check your credit reports
More than three months passed between the time the breach may have started and now. We’re not sure if the data of those affected was used maliciously during that period, so consider looking through your credit reports for any suspicious activity. The federal government guarantees everyone a free annual credit report from the three major bureaus. You can get those reports here.
When looking through your reports, keep an eye out for new accounts you didn’t open, late payments on debts you don’t recognize and any other activity that looks unfamiliar.
If you suspect someone used your identity to open credit cards, take on loans, or re-open closed accounts, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately. You are not responsible for charges made on a fraudulent card, but you have to report the issue in a timely manner. Once you’ve reported the fraudulent credit, follow this guide to recovering from identity theft.
Step 2: Freeze your credit
It’s still early, so even if your credit report comes back clean, remain vigilant about protecting your credit. One of the most reliable ways to prevent someone from opening credit cards in your name is to place what’s called a “credit freeze.”
When you freeze your credit, you (or anyone masquerading as you) will be required to un-freeze your account by providing the PIN you got when you froze your credit.
To freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers:
The process is usually automated and can be completed within a few minutes. Just be sure to write down your PINs in a secure place.
Step 3: Set a fraud alert
A fraud alert is another way to make it hard for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When a fraud alert is set, credit card companies will be required to verify your identity before opening an account. That, combined with the credit freeze, is a great way to keep your credit secure.
To set a fraud alert, contact just one of the credit card bureaus and ask for an initial fraud alert. Once the alert is set, it will last 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew it. Here are the appropriate phone numbers for the bureaus (remember, just call one):
Step 4: Repeat the process for your loved ones
Because Equifax is not notifying those affected through direct mail or email, some people will be left without the resources or tech-savvy to protect their identities or find out if they were compromised. With that in mind, consider helping your loved ones — especially the elderly without computer access — with the above steps.
Out of Town ATMs
WFTFCU is part of a Co-op of ATMs across the country. Members can use any of these ATMs surcharge free! To find these ATMs on the go, download this app for iPhone or Android! Or you can text a zip code to 91989 to find nearby ATM and Shared Branch Locations.