The big news this week, besides the hurricanes, is the Equifax breach where approximately 143 million consumers’ information was disclosed to criminals.  What should you do to protect yourself?

  1. Check to see if your personal information was possibly disclosed to the criminals. Go to and enter the requested information for each member of your family, even your minor children.
  2. Sign up for the one year free credit monitoring offered by Equifax for each member of your family who may have been impacted by the breach. Signing up for this service does not prevent you from participating in any necessary litigation against Equifax if you suffer losses due to the breach.
  3. Pull the free credit report from each of the credit bureaus for each member of your family at Be careful to not sign up for credit monitoring that requires you to input payment information.  The credit bureaus are required to provide each person with one free credit report per year.
  4. Request fraud alerts from all three of the credit bureaus. This will make it more difficult for criminals to obtain credit in your name.
  5. Call each of the credit bureaus and have them put a credit freeze on your account. This restricts access to your credit report and will make it nearly impossible for a criminal to obtain new credit in your name.  It does not, however, stop the criminals from using your current accounts.  Following are the phone numbers for each bureau.  You will need your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information.  There may be a fee for placing the freeze.  Each bureau will send you a PIN in a confirmation letter.  You will need this PIN to lift the freeze.
  • Equifax – 1-800-349-9960
  • Experian – 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion – 1-888-909-8872
  1. Monitor your open accounts at least weekly and report any suspicious transactions immediately to your financial institution.
  2. Change your passwords and make the passwords as difficult as possible. Continue to change your passwords often, especially for financial accounts.  If possible, request double authentication from your financial institution.  An example of this is where the financial institution will text, call, or email you with a PIN each time you log into your account.  Without the PIN, you cannot access your account.
  3. Pay attention to your medical records. Identity thieves may try to obtain medical services and/or prescriptions under your name.
Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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