Here’s how to protect yourself from ID theft after Equifax security breach

(WPRI) — With the latest security breach of the credit monitoring company Equifax, many are worried their personal information was stolen.

Equifax was recently hit by a high-tech heist, which exposed sensitive information such as Social Security numbers of an estimated 143 million Americans. Equifax is one of the three largest credit reporting agencies in the country, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Consumer Guide: Identity Theft »

The FTC says the breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers had access to people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. Hackers also stole the credit card numbers of 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. Equifax also identified unauthorized access to limited personal information for some UK and Canadian residents.

The hackers obtained consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. The data is enough for hackers to use stolen credentials to steal the identities of victims.

To find out if your information was exposed, visit the Equifax website and click on the ‘potential impact’ tab. From there, enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Always make sure you’re on a secure computer before entering your Social Security number.

Click here to find out if you’re affected »

Other Steps

In order to ensure your information is secure, the FTC has provided some steps to take in order to help protect yourself from identity theft.

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Any accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze can make it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. But keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • If you decide not to place a credit freeze on your accounts, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. Fraud alerts warn creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and they should verify anyone seeking credit in your name is actually you.
  • Monitor you existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • File your taxes as soon as you have the tax information needed before a scammer does so for you. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Make sure to also respond immediately to letters from the IRS.

If consumers have any questions, the FTC says to visit the frequently asked questions page on the Equifax website.