MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There’s a 50-50 chance you are one of 143 million Americans who had your personal information stolen by hackers who attacked Equifax.
Crooks got Social Security numbers, birth dates addresses. The credit bureau announced the breach a week ago, more than a month after they learned about it, and consumers have been scrambling for help.
Here’s what you should do.
Equifax’s website crashed, and they now have a new one: www.equifaxsecurity17.com. That’s where David Nelson started.
“I’ve been like a dog chasing its tail,” Nelson said. “I’ve called my 401(k), IRA, my life insurance company. I went to my bank and credit union.”
He’s keeping a legal pad with names and numbers of companies he does business with, and agencies offering advice about the data breach.
“They told me to go to the Federal Trade Commission so I called them.”
Nelson says it may come across as overly paranoid, but he’s seen the damage identity theft can do. And with a breach this massive, he’s not taking any chances.
“I`m going to do the freeze, I`m going to freeze every dadgum thing I can, because like I said, I feel like I’ve been personally violated.”
Experts advise everyone to go to Equifax, sign up for free credit monitoring, consider setting up fraud alerts or even that credit freeze.
It’s also a must to monitor your accounts and get a free copy of your credit report.
Nelson is also stepping up authentication on all of his accounts.
“I’m on voice recognition on my 401(k). My one bank account, I opened up 2006, they didn’t have a picture ID on me on file so I put a picture ID on file and they said they would notify their fraud department.”
Mark Chalos is an attorney that deals with consumer issues. Lawsuits against Equifax are piling in from consumers, even some attorneys general.
The head of the company has been called to testify before congress and there are requests for federal investigations.
Chalos says consumers should call for justice.
“They never came to us and said is it okay if we keep your Social Security number and take your home address and work address and other important information and store it somewhere. They never asked us to do that, they just did it and apparently they were careless with it,” Chalos said.
“It is absolutely time that the American consumer asks the legislators why are you letting these companies do this.”
Nelson said he contacted his congressman and senator and voiced his complaints there.
“My FICO score is 773. I work hard to get good credit and pay my bills on time.”
And for someone to steal that information — Nelson considers it a crime for which everyone should be held accountable.
“Maybe if they put mandatory jail sentence, I`m not talking about a federal country club, you know maybe this will make them set up there and, we`ve got to really protect the consumer.”
The deadline to sign up for free credit monitoring with Equifax is Nov. 21, so keep that in mind, and watch out for bogus emails and phone calls in the coming weeks from scammers saying it’s related to the breach.