How do you know if you are a victim of identity theft?
By now, you've heard about the breach of the financial records of Equifax, the credit reporting bureau. You may be among the millions of people whose financial records may have been stolen and that includes your social security number.
When asked about ways to protect yourself, financial security experts said you need to act now.
“So the first thing we're telling people to do is take advantage of everything that they are offering you. So sign up for the free credit monitoring. Make sure you're getting fraud alerts from your credit card company, from your bank, consider putting a credit freeze on your account,” Page Castrodale said, who is a financial security expert with the Charlotte Better Business Bureau.
She says in addition to putting a fraud alert or a freeze on your credit bureau account, you need to start checking your other financial accounts on a regular basis, which means your credit cards, checking and savings accounts. Some experts recommend that you do that every day.
The most serious issue with this hack is your social security number.
“If you think about all the things that your sign up for that requires your social security number and all the things that could be done in your name and it ruins your credit. It holds you responsible for payments that you don't even know about. They can open up all kinds of accounts in your name, it really just gets messy, very quickly,” Castrodale said.
One of the most important things you need to keep in mind regarding your social security number involves filing your taxes. Castrodale says, the earlier the better.
“As soon as you have all the documents you need to file your taxes, do it. Do it earlier rather than later, because the longer you wait, the more time it gives someone else who has your social security number to file that return in your name, and then obviously, it gets messy,” she said.
It is a major, laborious process to get a new social security number and even if you do, the Social Security Administration said a new number probably won't solve all your problems. It could actually create new ones.
Experts recommend that you check with Equifax to see if you're vulnerable. If you're at risk, you can then activate the Equifax security measures.
Also make sure to monitor your social account.
It could be days, weeks or even years before we see the fallout from the Equifax breach, so it is important that you not let your guard down from here on out.