There’s a good chance that — like me — you were affected by the Equifax security breach that exposed data on over 143 million Americans.
The hackers responsible for the intrusion accessed tons of personal information, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers.
According to The New York Times, “Equifax also said the thieves lifted credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers.”
But I’m not worried.
The truth is after the Chinese hacked OPM (the United States Office of Personnel Management) and stole background information on U.S. government workers — including all of my personal information from my top-secret security clearance — I stopped being concerned.
After all, if you have a bank account, use the internet, shop at Target or Walmart or pretty much do anything in the real world, you’re going to get hacked. There are thousands of cyberattacks every day and that number is rapidly growing.
That’s the world we live in now. Unless you decide to live in a cave and avoid all contact with everyone, you better get used to it.
Because the bottom line is there are now three sure things in life: death, taxes and getting hacked.
But like I said, I’m not sweating it.
What You Can’t Do (And What You Can)
There’s nothing I can personally do at Equifax — or Target or Home Depot or any other company — to keep out the bad guys.
All I can do is take the necessary measures within my power to protect myself. That way it won’t matter when the next company with my personal information gets hacked, (Cabela’s, don’t let me down) and I’ll still be able to sleep at night.
I’ve already taken the six steps below to make sure I’m protected. Hackers can’t really do too much damage if they know my Social Security number or birth date or any other piece of personal information.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take the following precautions as well. Don’t wait, because each day brings with it a new breach (or several).
- Put a freeze on your credit report. This one is a no-brainer. It should be the first thing you do once you finish reading this article. This will prevent hackers from taking out a mortgage or making any large purchases (like a car, a boat or a house) in your name. Do an internet search for “credit freeze” and follow the instructions. Be sure to do this with each of the three main credit reporting agencies (including Equifax).
- Review your credit report. I recommend reviewing your credit report at least once every six months to verify the information contained is accurate. This practice, coupled with a credit freeze, will ensure no one else can access your credit without your explicit authorization.
- Get a P.O. box. I’m a firm believer that everyone should open a P.O. box or get a UPS Store address to protect themselves. Nothing is attached to my home address — I don’t even own a home in my own name (think trust and LLC). Recently, an FBI buddy of mine tried to track down my home address using all of his resources and couldn’t find me. In other words, you want to make sure that if information about you gets out, it won’t reveal your home address.
- Protect your credit cards. Carry an RFID-blocker card in your wallet so criminals can’t hack your credit cards while you’re out and about. The Hack Shield fits in any wallet (just like a credit card) and works by forming an electronic barrier around your cards, making them — and your personal data — invisible to identity thieves.
- Audit your bank statements. Every single month, you should take the time to review your bank and credit card statements. It’s a boring 15 minutes, but it is well worth your time to ensure there aren’t any unauthorized charges draining your accounts.
- Browse the internet safely. Download and install a VPN (virtual private network) on your computer. In layman’s terms, a VPN is a program that encrypts your data over the internet so hackers can’t access it, making it safe to surf the internet when using public Wi-Fi. I recommend using a VPN all the time — not just on public Wi-Fi networks — because you can’t be too careful these days. The VPN I use is called TunnelBear. It costs around $60 a year, which is dirt-cheap. Click here and check it out for free by signing up for a seven-day trial.
If you follow the six recommendations above, you’ll be far more protected than most of your fellow Americans — and you won’t have to freak out the next time criminals steal information on 143 million people.