The recent Equifax data breach could affect up to 145 million individuals. With a hack that egregious there’s a good chance people within your company, or you, could have personal data compromised.
This hack is different from the previous Home Depot, Target, or Yahoo breaches because Equifax stores your social security number, birthdate, home address history, driver’s license number, and bank accounts. Precisely the scale and quality of information that anyone could co-opt to buy a car or take out new loans and credit cards, all in your name. And worse, even create a new identity.
You can bet swindlers and scoundrels around the world are salivating at the prospect of laying their hands on your data. But don’t panic. There are steps you can take immediately to protect yourself.
In the past week, several publications (NY Times, WSJ, and Inc.) have published lists of tips, steps, and things you can do to monitor and blunt the impact of this data loss. Here are three you can do now.
3 Steps to Protect Yourself and Your Employees
1. Freeze Your Credit Information
According to the Wall Street Journal, “A credit freeze will prevent a new creditor from accessing a consumer’s credit report. This move prevents anyone from opening a new line of credit in the name of the consumer who enacted the freeze.”
To freeze your credit contact each of these three firms and follow their procedures. One financial advisor noted he was able to freeze his files with three five-minute phone calls.
- Equifax: 800-349-9960 or use the website
- Experian: 888-397-3742 or use the website
- TransUnion: 888-909-8872 or use the website
You will have to pay a small fee ($3–$10) to each company, and the freeze is only good for a calendar year. Also, keep in mind if you apply for a loan, credit card or line of credit during the freeze you will have to remove and restore the credit freeze.
2. Monitor Your Credit
Equifax is offering people in the U.S. the opportunity to subscribe to its credit file monitoring and identity theft protection service for one year at no cost. “The offering, called TrustedID Premier, includes credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and internet scanning for Social Security numbers,” says the WSJ.
However, better credit monitoring services are available for $10 to $30 a month from consumer-focused services such as Identity Guard, LifeLock, or myFICO.
3. Establish Fraud Alerts
If you’ve been an identity theft victim, you have a federal right to set fraud alerts for free. But anyone can pay to set up alerts. Once you’ve enabled a fraud alert, you’re notified every time there’s an attempt to check your history. The alerts last for 90 days but are easily renewed.
Communicate With Your Employees
If you’re a business owner or senior leader at a private or public company, consider sharing these steps with your firm’s employees through an all-employee email, company intranet, or SharePoint site. Work with your HR and employee communications professionals to create the right mix of tactics that will work best for your business.
A few other tactics could include 1) Arm your HR or payroll and benefits team with answers to frequently asked questions if employees call for advice, and 2) Add a list of data breach FAQs to your intranet site (Include a phone number, or email address employees can use to seek more information).
Sadly, the time and money you spend creating a corporate communications plan now won't go to waste. Rest assured, you'll need it again.