ATLANTA - The massive data breach at Equifax has 143 million consumers searching for ways to protect themselves from identity theft.
Last week, Equifax announced hackers infiltrated their data base gaining access to personal information including names, addresses, and social security numbers.Many experts agree it's the most devastating financial hack in U.S. history.
"With 143 million Americans impacted. This is going to have a long term effect," said James Azar, founder of Alpharetta's CyberHub USA, a company that works with businesses and consumers to protect against cyber-attacks.
Putting a fraud alert monitoring system on your credit reports will help to notify consumers if an unusual move has been made, such as a new line of credit has been established, but for those who are not looking to open new lines of credit, there are better options.
"I've been able to go on to Credit Karma just to make sure that I haven't had any changes to my credit account," said Chester.
One of the best ways, according to Azar, is to put a credit freeze on all three major credit reporting agencies. This basically seals a person’s credit report and puts a padlock on it in the form of a PIN. Freezing a credit report has no bearing on your current credit line, but it does prevent companies from pinging a consumer’s credit history.
"It essentially protects your credit so that when anytime you want to establish a new line of credit or renew a line of credit they have to get your authorization," said Azar.
The service does cost anywhere from $3 to $10 depending on the company and the state in which the consumer lives.
Click on each credit agency below to learn more:
Experian - https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/freeze
Experts advise that it is best to freeze all three, but the length of time is up to the individual. They suggest unfreezing the reports two weeks prior to a known credit check from a company offering a credit line or a future employer.
But this will have a very lasting effect.
"As a hacker, I know now for the first year don't use that information, but what happens year two, year three, year four, year five. They go back they retrieve that information," said Azar.
Alpharetta resident Candace Sheridan said she always checks her accounts.
"I do monitor. I'm careful about my accounts. I change my passwords," said Sheridan.
Azar said cyber crooks can buy credit card info on the dark web for about twenty cents. He recommends using pre-paid cards when appropriate.
"Don't use your real debit card or credit card for online transactions. Get a $50 Visa pre-paid card and use that for your on line transactions," said Azar.
Azar said consumers may also consider getting another ID number, a license as a hedge against hackers.
"By going and renewing your driver's license and asking them to issue you a new number. You'll be able to prove in a court of law that they used your previous ID and not your old one," said Azar.