By Gail MarksJarvis
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Adam Levin, chairman and founder of the identity protection firm CyberScout and author of the book “Swiped” says that even if an individual’s accounts appear fine for now, thieves who obtain Social Security numbers could impersonate consumers any time in the coming years. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself now and down the road.
The massive data breach reported by Equifax this week will leave millions of Americans at risk of identity theft for the rest of their lives.
The credit monitoring company said Thursday that the breach may have exposed the Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses and phone numbers of 143 million consumers.
While Equifax has offered to give people a year of free credit monitoring, that falls far short of what most consumers need to protect themselves, said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of the identity protection firm CyberScout and author of the book “Swiped.”
“Your Social Security number is an eternal thing,” he said. Consumers have their Social Security numbers for life, they are virtually impossible to change, and they are the access point to each person’s identity. The Social Security numbers that children hold are also at risk.
Even if an individual’s accounts appear fine for now, thieves who obtain Social Security numbers could impersonate consumers any time in the coming years, Levin noted.
As a result, those who had their personal data exposed need to be on the lookout for anything unusual involving their financial activities, including bank and credit card accounts, bills and insurance claims.
Those who had their information exposed need to monitor credit reports from all three credit bureaus to see if accounts have been opened in their name, according to financial experts.
One way consumers can determine if accounts have been fraudulently opened in their name is to check their annual credit report, which allows for an examination of the records kept on individuals by each of the three credit bureaus. These reports can be obtained free through www.annualcreditreport.com. The three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, must provide individual’s with a free copy of their credit report, at their request, once every 12 months.