If you haven't signed up for free credit monitoring following the Equifax data breach of last year, your time is running out.
The deadline to sign up for a free year of credit monitoring is Jan. 31. Anyone with a Social Security number is eligible for the credit monitoring at equifaxsecurity2017.com. Those signing up will get Equifax's TrustedID credit monitoring service, which covers all three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
The service will monitor any suspicious activity on credit reports and send the individual an alert. The company says it will also monitor web searches using Social Security numbers and provide up to $1 million in ID theft insurance should someone become the victim of ID theft.
Following the free credit monitoring deadline, Equifax will provide a new service that will provide access to an individual's Equifax credit file directly for life. Although specific details have not been announced, the service will allow individuals to use their smartphone or computer to lock and unlock their Equifax credit file directly.
In September, Equifax said approximately 143 million Americans had their data breached by hackers, which included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver license information. Credit card information was also stolen for approximately 209,000 people.
Following the breach announcement, Equifax announced that it would be offering the credit monitoring free of charge for a year; however, the website was overwhelmed and few were able to sign up for the service.
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following five steps to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of a data breach:
Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This can be done for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com. If there is activity you don't recognize, it could indicate identity theft.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze does not prevent theft on existing accounts but makes it difficult to open a new account in your name.
Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely. If there is activity you don't recognize, it could indicate identity theft.
Consider placing a fraud alert on your files. If you choose not to do a credit freeze, fraud alerts will warn creditors that you may be a victim of ID theft. The creditor will then notify you if someone is seeking credit in your name.
Filing your taxes shortly after getting all of your information will keep scammers from doing it first. Scammers can use your Social Security number to get a tax refund. If you are a victim of ID theft, you should contact the IRS immediately.