By now, you’ve likely heard the news that an estimated 143 million Americans have had their personal information compromised in the Equifax data breach. While this is certainly cause for concern, the most important action you, as a consumer, can take right now is to monitor your credit activity for fraudulent activity.
A good first step is to request a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can obtain a free copy from each once per year at http://annualcreditreport.com. You might also want to place a credit freeze or a fraud alert.
If you discover that there has indeed been fraudulent activity on your account, you’ll want to take steps right away to minimize the damage. Start by reading up on how to dispute an error on your credit report. Visit www.identitytheft.gov and www.usa.gov/identity-theft for basic information and then consider downloading the FTC’s booklet entitled Identity Theft: A Recovery Plan to drill down into the details of overcoming Identity Theft.
Most importantly, remember not panic if your identity is stolen. Be vigilant in your monitoring efforts and arm yourself with the tools necessary to combat identity theft. Early detection of fraudulent activity will help minimize the amount of damage control required.