The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs is encouraging consumers to demonstrate vigilance regarding their personal identifying information after an Equifax breach affecting half the U.S. population.
A news release from SCDCA urges consumers to monitor their financial accounts and benefits statements for signs of identity theft and suggests the following:
- Consider a security freeze. S.C. residents can place the security freeze for free. The freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit report without your express permission. Contact each credit reporting agency to place the freeze, remembering to keep track of the unique PIN they issue. You will need the PIN to lift the freeze.
- Know the terms of credit monitoring offered. Many breaches result in the offer of free credit report monitoring services. Read the fine print carefully and know what you are signing up for - or what you may be signing away. Weigh the costs and benefits of providing your sensitive data for this service.
- Update your current passwords and security questions. Scammers could use your information to gain access to established accounts such as calling your bank and providing specific information that only you should have, in order to reroute deposits, or clean out accounts, etc.
- Monitor your personal statements. Keep a close eye on financial and benefits statements, ensuring they arrive on time and have no errors. Contact the organization immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Closely monitor any online retail accounts where you have payment information stored.
- Free credit reports. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each credit reporting agency annually. Check your credit report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228.
- Contact your financial institutions. Research additional security alerts you can opt into through your bank or financial institution to lessen the burden of monitoring your financial accounts. These free alerts could save you lots of time.
- Contact SCDCA's Identity Theft Unit dedicated to offering consumers tailored guidance on identity theft issues. Fill out an identity theft intake form or access SCDCA's Identity Theft Guide by visiting the unit's webpage.
Scam artists follow the headlines. Imposter scammers could have more information about you than ever, making their phone calls, emails and other communications seem even more convincing. When fielding unsolicited communications of any type, know the red flags of a scam.
To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call toll free, (800) 922-1594.