In the wake of the Equifax breach, more than 4.6 million consumers have good reason to worry more about identity theft. This is because hackers stole their personal data, including their Social Security numbers, birthdates, and credit card information. Many of these affected Michigan consumers are left wondering what they should do next. After all, most identity theft prevention advice hinges on keeping information safe. Now, however, the data is already out there and exposed. Should everyone just sit back and wait for the inevitable attacks on their finances, credit card accounts, tax refunds, and medical records? No. Fortunately, Michigan consumers can still minimize identity theft risks by taking several strategic actions.
Strategies that Every Affected Michigan Consumer Should Consider in the Wake of the Equifax Breach
Even with so much personal data exposed, and the threat of identity theft looming larger than ever, Michigan residents should not lose hope. Instead, get proactive and consider the following tips from the credit experts at The New York Times.
1 – File your tax return as early as possible.
Unfortunately, analysts expect a huge increase in tax fraud incidents this year. With millions of Social Security numbers exposed in Michigan, tax refunds are in jeopardy. Yet, you can prevent scammers from filing a fraudulent tax return in your name by filing a legitimate one first.
2 – Get copies of your medical records from your family doctor.
If fraudsters use your identity to get medical services, having a clean copy of your records will help the recovery process go faster. It is also a good idea to periodically check your medical files to ensure that no one has filed fraudulent claims on your health insurance.
3 – Sign up for online bank account and credit card statements.
This gives Michigan consumers 24/7 access to their financial statements so they can check them frequently for suspicious activity. Just be careful with emailed alerts, even if they look official. Too often, hackers running phishing scams lure consumers in with fake emails from banks and credit card issuers.
4 – Freeze your credit reports.
When Michiganders freeze their credit reports, lenders can’t run credit checks. This prevents identity thieves from using their names to open credit card accounts or take out loans. However, you can’t get new credit with frozen credit reports either. Therefore, you must unfreeze your credit to apply for a loan or credit card, then refreeze it.
5 – Sign up for a free or paid credit monitoring service.
Equifax has offered all consumers one free year of their TrustedID Premier credit monitoring service. Credit Karma also provides free credit monitoring, but the service comes with ads promoting various credit cards and other financial services. Or, Experian, TransUnion, and other companies offer credit monitoring for about $20 a month.
6 – Take advantage of free fraud alerts.
TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian offer these to consumers in Michigan and other states who feel they are at risk for identity theft. In addition, most credit card companies provide free fraud alerts to their customers. Fraud alerts are useful even if you freeze your credit reports because frozen credit won’t prevent scammers from committing fraud with existing accounts.
7 – Contact the Social Security Administration and open an account.
If you have not done so already, create a My Social Security account on the Social Security Administration’s website. Ideally, you should do this before an identity theft opens a false account in your name.
8 – Minimize your accounts.
Michigan consumers with fewer bank and credit card accounts give fraudsters fewer opportunities to steal from them or make bogus charges with their credit card numbers. Just be aware of the fact that closing accounts may lower your credit score. So, definitely don’t get rid of your older, more established accounts.
9 – Conduct all financial activity on one dedicated device.
Pick up a tablet or a prepaid cellphone and use it for nothing but finance-related activity. Pay your bills on this device, check your statements, transfer funds, etc. By keeping these tasks separate from your other online activities, you make it harder for hackers to track your information.
10 – Check your credit reports.
Even if you use a credit monitoring service, you should still check your credit reports at least once every 12 months. This is how often the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act allows you to request free credit reports from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Also, you can get all three credit reports from one source if you visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
Free Legal Help for Michigan Identity Theft Victims
If, while going over your credit reports, you find obvious signs of identity theft – bogus accounts or fraudulent transactions – file a police report immediately. Then, contact Credit Repair Lawyers of America in Michigan. Attempting the credit report recovery process after identity theft on your own is often frustrating and confusing. However, when Michigan consumers can call our firm, an experienced credit attorney will restore their clean credit reports for free.
Don’t let fraudulent items on your credit reports bring your credit score down. At Credit Repair Lawyers of America in Michigan, we’ve been cleaning up credit reports for consumers since 2008 for free. How do we do it? All of our fees come from the defendants in settled cases. This is why our clients pay nothing for the work we do.
Let’s start the conversation about what we can do for your credit. Set up your free consultation today by calling Attorney Gary Nitzkin at (248) 353-2882 or contact us on our contact page.
For more information about Free Credit Repair After Identity Theft, please visit https://creditrepairlawyersam.com/michigan/id-theft-repairs/.