What to do if you were affected by the Equifax breach

The Equifax data hack is considered the most troubling breach yet.

The information compromised–birth dates, social security numbers, addresses in some cases drivers licenses–ever expires, leaving those affected vulnerable for years to come.

For this reason it’s safest to suspect the sensitive information exposed can and will be used to victimize the 143 million Americans affected, with no end in sight.

“This is a company that’s in business by judging us of being ‘credit worthy,’" Computer Forensics Services founder Mark Lanterman said. "I don’t think they’re worthy of anything right now.” 

He says the Target hack, which only exposed credit card numbers and not other information, was forgivable. 

"With the Target breach, those are credit card numbers," he said. "You can cancel them and move on with your lives. What are you going to do [now], cancel our identity?”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there’s a good chance you’re one Americans whose sensitive information has been exposed.

“This is the most personal information you have,” Lanterman said.

So here’s what the FTC suggests you can do to minimize harm to your identity:

  • Check your credit reports for suspicious activity
  • Monitor your credit cards and bank accounts every week for fraudulent transactions
  • Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit files. This will warn creditors they should verify anyone seeking credit in your name is actually you
  • Finally, you may want to freeze your Equifax, Experian, Transunion and Innovis credit files by phone--but bear in mind this alone won’t keep crooks from making charges to your existing accounts

“All that this does is that it prevents criminals from opening new lines of credit,” Lanterman said.

Which is all the more reason to keep your eyes peeled and make it a habit. Also bear in mind each freeze will cost you anywhere from $5 to $15 to place and lift.

“Equifax will actually be making money from us as we try to recover from their incompetence,” Lanterman added.

Although Equifax reportedly waives the freeze fee for affected customers, it will cost to lift the freeze(s) if, for example, you need to take out a loan or a new line of credit.

The ordeal and subsequent hassle and fees add insult to injury. Class action lawsuits have already been launched, but Lanterman believes they are no consolation whatsoever.

“Money can’t make this right,” he said.

Without a magic cure, when it comes to protecting your identity, you are the first and last line of defense.

“This is a betrayal of all consumers and now we have to monitor, we have do work for the rest of our lives to make sure we're not victims of fraud directly related to this breach,” Lanterman said.