It is still unknown how many Canadians were affected by the security breach at credit-monitoring company Equifax Inc., which was revealed on Thursday, September 7. The breach could have an impact of up to 143 million people in the United States. As for Canada, all Equifax said was that the breach affected "limited personal information" for an undisclosed number of Canadians.
The information stolen include: Consumers' names, social insurance numbers, birth dates, addresses, credit card information and, in some cases, driver's license numbers.
The company has established a website -- www.equifaxsecurity2017.com -- where people can check to see whether their personal information may have been stolen. Consumers can also call 866-447-7559 for more information. Here are five tips to help make sure your information has not been compromised.
- Check your credit report for free. You are allowed a free copy of your credit report, by request. Then you can see if there have been any credit inquiries. The free version doesn't give you your score.
- Monitor your credit. If after checking with the company's website, you find there has been a breach of your personal information, consider taking the company's offer for free credit monthly monitoring reports for a year -- after the year is up there is a cost. WARNING: There has been discussion that if you choose to do this you may not be able to participate in a class action suit. Read the fine print. If you find you have not been affected, it's still a good idea to keep an eye on your credit score, whether through paying for credit monitoring or accessing a number of free credit monitoring apps that are out there. If your monthly score drops, then it may indicate that something has happened.
- Freeze your credit reports. You can freeze your Equifax account. This restricts access to your credit report, which helps prevent other credit card companies from accessing it to open new accounts.
- Keep an eye on bank accounts and credit card statements. Go through all your bank, retirement, and brokerage accounts, as well as your credit card statements to look for any suspicious activity. Report any suspicious charges and cancel your compromised card for a new one.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit. This is a free service. You'll be contacted if someone tries to apply for credit in your name. It lasts 90 days and can be renewed.