SAN DIEGO — San Diego County’s top prosecutor urged consumers Thursday to consider taking steps to protect their personal identifying information in the wake of the massive data breach at Equifax, one of the largest credit bureaus in the United States.
Cybercriminals stole 143 million credit records in the hacking scandal.
“At this point, millions of consumers have to assume that the bad guys have highly personal information that they can use to trick you,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Our `CATCH’ (Computer and Technology Crime High Tech Response) team has posted advice for consumers online and I encourage San Diego County residents to consider taking steps to protect themselves.”
Experts say to watch out for:
— phishing (phony) emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised;
— phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information;
— calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union; and
— fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen.
To prevent identity theft, consumers can do four things, according to authorities:
— sign up for credit monitoring. There are many companies providing that service, including Equifax, but be sure to read the Terms of Agreement carefully and note if there are any set-up or recurring costs associated with the monitoring;
— place a fraud alert with one of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Placing a fraud alert is free and stays on your credit report for 90 days;
— check your credit reports for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com; and
— check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity.
If you believe you may have been the victim of identity theft, there are two sites where you can learn more about how to protect yourself, at http://www.idtheftcenter.org and http://www.ftcgov/idtheft.