Equifax cyberattack: How to get a free credit report, protect your identity

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Equifax cyberattack: How to get a free credit report, protect your identity

Credit reporting juggernaut Equifax announced Thursday that its information was compromised in a major cyberattack affecting 143 million Americans – or two-thirds of people with credit reports.

Hackers were able to get birth dates, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and addresses, according to Equifax, leaving some to wonder how they can protect themselves.

Here are some tips for ensuring your information is secure:

Find out whether you were affected by the hack through Equifax’s website. The site asks for a person’s last name and the last six digits of their Social Security number in order to determine whether the person was caught in the breach.

Don’t bother with Equifax’s monitoring serviceClark.com reported, noting that the company offering the service is the same one that was hacked.

“The only way to truly protect yourself is with a credit freeze,” Clark.com reported, recommending that people freeze their credit files with all three of America’s major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Doing so does not affect whether or not a person can use already existing lines of credit.

Review your credit report and put a fraud alert on it if you are affected, Popular Mechanics suggested. A fraud alert will make it necessary for banks and credit companies to jump through extra hoops to confirm your identity. The magazine noted that a fraud alert filed with any one of America’s three credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and Transunion -- will be shared between the three.

Whether or not you decide to put a fraud alert on your credit file, you can still obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the credit bureaus. The reports can be obtained through annualcreditreport.com or by completing and mailing an annual credit report request form, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

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