The Equifax data breach has been a sobering reminder for consumers to be more vigilant than ever about protecting their personal information. It’s been six months since the company disclosed a massive hack affecting as many as 148 million Americans.
Criminals hauled in a treasure trove of sensitive information, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and credit and debt card digits that were exposed when a website application was exploited, the company said. As a result, consumer advocates like money expert Clark Howard have been warning people to monitor their credit closely for suspicious activity.
Report: Half of Americans haven’t checked their credit after the Equifax data breach
But many consumers may not be taking the dire warnings seriously. A recent survey from Creditcards.com shows that 50% of Americans haven’t even checked their credit in the wake of the Equifax hack. The survey of 1,164 U.S. adults found that 7% of respondents felt that a stolen cellphone was worse than having their personal info stolen.
The survey also indicates that while it may be easy to dismiss the fear of losing your cellphone as a generational thing, identity theft expert Rob Douglas said that people with those concerns are “on to something.”
“They may be recognizing that we keep everything on our phones – the apps we use, our contact lists, calendars and passcodes,” Douglas was quoted as saying. “Our lives are in our phones.”
Still, Washington finally seems ready to strengthen consumer protections.
Congressional lawmakers last week approved a wide-ranging banking bill that includes a provision forcing credit-reporting bureaus to allow consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit for free. The legislation, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, has bipartisan support and is expected to pass the Senate in the coming days.
Until recently, the three major credit bureaus charged a fee in most cases to put credit freezes in place. The new rules proposed by the government would effectively save consumers millions of dollars.
Given the state of privacy and security in the United States, Clark Howard is touting two ways consumers can best protect their financial lives. Here’s how to do it:
Two steps you need to take to protect your credit
- Sign up for a Credit Sesame or CreditKarma.com account to get free credit monitoring and be notified when anyone tries to apply for credit in your name. Here’s a step-by-step rundown of how to do it.
- Freeze your credit with the three major credit-reporting agencies. Here’s an in-depth guide on how to contact Equifax, TransUnion and Experian to freeze your accounts.