I could not win PowerBall nor Mega Millions, but I did just find out I’m one of the 143 million who might have had their information compromised in the Equifax data breach. Woo-Hoo. D’Oh!.

I found this out through a page Equifax has created a page where worried individuals can input their last name and the last six digits of their Social Security number to discover if they will be joining the party. (Quick addendum: It has been reported that Equifax’s terms of use states using the service means a person cannot sue or join in a class action suit against Equifax. This bit of legalese has already been challenged by N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who said in a tweet it is unenforceable.)

Hold on, did Equifax again ask for vital personal information that I now know it is incapable of protecting?

Yes.

Did I give it to them?

Yes.

Why did I do so?

I’m an idiot. Well, not really, but I did want to know and besides between Yahoo, LinkedIn, Target, Home Depot and OPM I’m pretty sure everything but my shoe size has already been exposed. 

But Equifax’s rather nervy request brings up the obvious question of what organizations can consumers truly trust to not only monitor their credit, but keep their PII under wraps. The answer is probably not many seeing that Equifax joins another other major credit firm Experian in having been proven to be quite breachable.

So one answer may be that it’s a better idea to rely on yourself and some publicly available resources.

Steven Bearak, CEO of Identity Force came up with a five-point action plan that could be helpful:

  • If you confirm that you’re a victim of identity theft, create an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):  Expect law enforcement to request a copy of this report when you contact them.
  • Consider placing an extended fraud alert or security freeze on your credit: Creditors will still have access to your credit file, even though you’ve placed a 7-year extended fraud alert, but must first contact you to verify your identity before extending credit. A credit freeze generally prevents creditors from accessing your credit file. To request one, you must call each credit bureau directly. Laws vary by state.
  • File your tax returns as soon as you can: Filing an early tax return protects you from identity thieves who could file and collect your tax refund before you do. You can also request a personal identification number (PIN) in order to submit your tax return. In the case with the Equifax data breach, it especially pertinent to stay on top of this to allow time to remediate any issues.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration:  Request a copy of your wage earning report to verify that your social security number is not being used fraudulently, which could result in your owing taxes for wages earned by someone who’s stolen your information.
  • Contact your health insurance carrier: Request a copy of your health insurance statement in order to identify any fraudulent medical claims.