In recent years, we have dealt with major data breaches at hospitals, retail stores and government offices. In September, we learned Equifax's data was breached, potentially affecting millions of people. While these breaches are alarming, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are a victim of identity theft. It does mean that you should take precautionary measures to protect your identity. The following are some steps to consider taking:
- Review your annual credit report. Call 877-322-8228 or visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is free and lasts for 90 days. Contact one bureau only. www.Equifax.com (800-525-6285) www.Experian.com (888-397-3742) www.TransUnion.com (800-680-7289)
- Visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com or call (866-447-7559) to learn more about the breach and if your information was affected.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your file. You will have to request to remove the freeze if you apply for credit. You must contact all three bureaus. Fee to freeze and lift applies. www.Equifax.com (800-349-9960) www.Experian.com (888-397-3742) www.TransUnion.com (888-909-8872)
- Monitor your credit card and bank statements.
- Be wary of unsolicited phone calls or emails appearing to come from Equifax, the other credit bureaus or financial institutions.
If you have questions about any of these precautionary measures, don't hesitate to contact an AARP Foundation ElderWatch volunteer at 800-222-4444 option 2.