On September 7th, the major credit bureau Equifax announced that they had suffered a data breach which included personal information of 143 million Americans. To understand the scale of this, you might want to consider that the estimated number of households in the United States is less than 126 million. The data breached included social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and, for some records, driver's license numbers and credit information. With this type of information, a criminal may well be able to apply for credit in your name.
Equifax has responded to this breach by providing an informational website and offering credit monitoring - www.equifaxsecurity2017.com . At the site you can click on a "Potential Impact" button to get an answer from Equifax on the likelihood of your data being included in the breach. Even if your data is not included in the breach, you can enroll for a year of complimentary credit monitoring from Equifax by clicking on the "Enroll" button and then getting on their schedule for an enrollment date. Both of these functions will require you to enter your last name and last 6 numbers of your social security number - so be very sure you are on the correct site by checking the site name in your browser. If you enroll in Equifax's monitoring, be aware that you may be waiving rights to participate in a class action lawsuit on this breach later.
Given that this breach will affect most persons in this country, it is very advisable to put some type of credit monitoring in place, even if you choose, understandably, not to do so through Equifax. You might also consider placing a credit freeze with each of the major credit bureaus; though this function will probably cost a small amount. There is a very nice write-up on credit freezes, including their benefits and inconveniences by Brian Krebs, a well-known security journalist, at http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/06/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-embrace-the-security-freeze/ .
It's also a good idea to periodically request your credit report to look for erroneous entries, which you can do at http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ .
Other tips for further protecting your identity:
- File your tax return at the earliest you can. There has been an increase in fraudulent filings in the past few years, and filing before the bad guys file a return in your name helps prevent tax return fraud.
- Sign up for your account with the Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov. Reports of criminals signing up fraudulent accounts at the SSA have been increasing. Claiming your account before the criminals have a chance to do it is helpful.
The government web site www.identitytheft.gov is also a good resource for learning to protect yourself. The DePaul Information Security team can be reached at email address email@example.com.
A colleague of mine (Paul Bodine) just shared information about a Chrome plug-in that may be of information to faculty and students. "Media Share" allows you to quickly collect videos from anywhere on the web/desktop/etc., organize them, and drop links into documents, LMSs, etc. The plug-in is made for the education market. You can find out more here.