I’m sure over 143 million Americans would have come up with a similar title for my article today. After a data breach that exposed consumers' personal information, Equifax bungled its crisis management communication. The breach is being blamed on the company's lax response to a known security vulnerability which is analogous to a tiny crack in the foundation for a rat to get in. If history repeats itself like with Anthem, Target, Home Depot, and other breaches that came before it, the number of affected consumers may likely increase.

A long time ago nefarious entities were interested in cleaning out your bank account. Those days are long gone! With the arrival of the internet, “information” and not greenbacks are the currency of the digital world.

Even if you live under a rock and off-the-grid (i.e. disconnected from the cloud), these breaches will likely affect you. Why? As long as you have a Social Security number, credit card, driver’s license, or anything else that can identify you as a person, some entity out there has a dossier on you. We only hope that these entities understand and protect our PII (Personally Identifiable Information) they collect.

This breach is serious enough for you to take some kind of action while avoiding these pitfalls:

  • Inaction from the misguided belief that this breach is no more serious than others that came before it
  • Inaction from fear that perps will leave you with not even a penny to your name – which can turn you into a deer frozen in front of headlights!

I like to use the phrase "domain of control" to refer to outcomes that we can manage. By taking one or more of the actions in the list below, you may minimize the potential of being a victim. These actions are in your domain of control and should be part of your Internet Street Smarts toolbox:

  • Pull and review your free credit reports from the credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com.

  • Consider freezing your credit. This will make it harder for a nefarious entity tries to open a new credit card with your stolen PII.

  • If you use a computer – from home or while outside with additional security provided by a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service – check your credit card activities online rather than wait for your monthly statements. If not, at least review your mailed monthly statements in detail.

  • Keep abreast of news on this and any breach for that matter. They tend to find out more as they go and may bring out new tools you can take advantage of to protect yourself (like free credit monitoring offers from the credit bureau).

  • Beware of an increase in scam activities with scammers using your PII to customize their ploy.

  • The Federal Trade Commission recommends visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com to check whether your information may have been compromised. Even if it wasn't, consider taking advantage of the year of free credit monitoring Equifax is offering to all consumers.

Don’t let your guard down but don’t lose sleep either. Exercise your domain of control!

Tak Sato

Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder and strategist for the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, and founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 9, Issue 18, Posted 10:07 AM, 09.19.2017