Check on personal information after Equifax data breach

Equifax last week revealed hackers had perhaps gained access to personal data from up to 143 million Americans, or nearly 44 percent of the U.S. population.

That’s a scary thought, especially considering the breach of one of the three major credit reporting agencies happened between mid-May and late July, yet it wasn’t revealed until September. That data could include names, Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses, even driver’s license numbers and dispute documents.

For those concerned they might be among that 44 percent left vulnerable, Equifax has — belatedly — offered these ways to check on the status of your records, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection advised.

Equifax has established a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559 to answer consumers’ questions about the breach. The call center is open every day, including weekends, from 6 a.m. to midnight Central time.

Those who believe they might be been affected can:

— Download a copy of the DATCP fact sheet, “Data Breach: What to do if it happens to you.”

— Consider placing a free 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting one of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian at 888-397-3742, TransUnion at 800-680-7289 or Equifax at 888-766-0008. Any of the bureaus contacted will relay the request to the other two companies. A fraud alert warns creditors of a potential identity theft victim and to verify anyone seeking credit in that name.

— Also consider a security freeze that can offer a higher level of protection on credit reports if needed. Such a freeze bars access to such reports without express permission. Additional information about freezes also is available in DATCP’s credit report security freeze fact sheet.

— Request a free credit report from the three credit bureaus by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 877-322-8228 to check for irregularities.

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