KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – State Attorney General Herbert Slatery believes personal information on more than 3 million Tennesseans has been stolen in a security breach at credit reporting company Equifax.
The number is estimated nationwide at 143 million who have been compromised. Information that’s been stolen includes Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases driver’s license numbers.
Financial experts say the hackers might not use your information today, six months from now, or even in a year, but by the time you’ve forgotten about it is when you’ll encounter fraud.
It was a gamble Megan Miller was hoping to win when she entered in her information, along with her husband’s, on the Equifax website.
“Checked us out and we were both listed as affected,” she said.
Understandably the breach brings about stress and uneasiness.
“We’re hoping we can lock our credit down for a while, prevent anything from happening,” said Miller.
Certified Financial Planner John Fawaz explained what can be done.
“There are a lot of companies out there that you can pay for a nominal fee and they will protect your credit. They will let you know if anyone applies or checks your credit, any changes,” he said.
If your information has been compromised, check your credit card statements every few days looking for suspicious activity and sign up for alerts.
“This is going extreme, but you can actually freeze your credit. The problem with freezing your credit is that if you freeze it and now you want to get a loan, you have to un-freeze it,” said Fawaz.
In a sense, it’s like a hacker is robbing your bank, which could impact your livelihood.
“It’s pretty scary, especially in today where your credit is the most important asset you have,” added Fawaz.
The Equifax breach is in the back of Ashley Smith’s mind even though as of Wednesday, nothing of hers has been compromised.
“Having either of our credits hurt is a big deal for us because we’ve worked really hard to build up our credit so we could have a home, have cars,” she said.
While so many Tennesseans are trying to protect their identity, the Millers are hoping their preventative measures work.
“You just kind of have to cross your fingers and pray that you aren’t one of the ones they come after,” Miller said.
Whether your name is listed on the breach or not, financial experts say it’s okay to check your credit score. You may be worried if you check it often, it could chip away at your score, but that is a myth. Fawaz says to stagger your credit score reports because most companies only do it for free once a year.
Equifax will ask you to enter the last six digits of your Social Security number, then the website will tell you if Equifax believes you’ve been affected. You’ll then be able to enroll, for free, in what Equifax calls Trusted ID Premier with a lock on your credit, a copy of your credit report, ID theft insurance, plus monitoring of your credit and Social Security number.