Everybody is talking about Equifax, Equifax, Equifax. In this article I am going to give some recommendations about what you can do on your own until you figure out if you can trust Equifax — or any reporting agency.

In case you haven’t heard, between mid-May and July millions of Equifax customers, who thought their credit was protected, were actually being exposed to hackers. The breach affected:

  • 143 million Americans;
  • 44 million British subjects; and
  • 100,000 Canadians.

The stolen information includes Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, and dispute-related documents.

That’s the easy part of the story. What followed is a tale of delay and confusion, insider trading, forced arbitration, and a new website domain that is so confusing Equifax itself misspelled it three times in public tweets.  

If you’re left scratching your head, you’re not alone. People are unsure of whether or not they should hand over their data to Equifax again, which is required in order to find out if your information has been compromised. Here are my tips:

  1. File your taxes as early as possible. Tax identity thieves operate with the knowledge that we hate to do our taxes. The more we procrastinate, the more time thieves have to file bogus tax returns and collect bogus refunds off of our backs. Besides the financial impact, victims of tax identity fraud become subject to increased security measures and restrictions on their ability to file electronically.
  2. Freeze your credit. If you’re trying to avoid Equifax, you can freeze your credit with the other two reporting agencies, TransUnion and Experian. When you freeze your credit, it will make it impossible for thieves to open any new credit accounts under your name. It’s important to note that freezing your credit will not have any effect on accounts that you have already opened.
  3. Create a fraud flag on your credit. A fraud flag is different from a credit freeze because it still allows you to open new credit accounts, but it alerts potential lenders that there has been fraud connected to your account. This may affect a vendor’s decision whether to give you credit. In this case, not getting credit is a good thing!
  4. Check your accounts every day. When all else fails, eyeball it. Daily. I always advise to never step foot outside without knowing your balances first. It certainly helps you in your daily financial life, but it will also help you detect fraud — and time is of the essence if the authorities are going to catch the thief that stole from you.  

So there it is. Four ways to monitor your credit yourself, with or without the help of Equifax. And for the record, that 1990s-esque website address to contact Equifax is: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.