Steps you need to take to fight Equifax breach

SEATTLE — Eight co-workers were picked at Q13 News at random to see if they are among the 143 million Americans compromised by Equifax’s breach.  Seven of the eight got bad news.

The workers visited Equifax’s website, put in the appropriate information and were told that they may be impacted by the hack.

Equifax has set up a tool to see if your personal information may have been accessed.

EQUIFAX TOOL: Click here to use Equifax’s “Check Potential Impact” tool

Criminals are so successful at stealing our identities and credit nowadays it's easy to get desensitized.

“I think you do, I think you go, oh well, if it gets me, it gets me,” King County resident Kimberly Stutzman said.

But experts believe the scale of Equifax's breach is more serious than previous hacks.

“A lot more information than just date of birth or credit card number, it's Social Security number, mother’s maiden name,” cyber security expert Bryan Seely said.

He added that the hackers will start selling the stolen data on the black market and the consequences will be long-term.

“They can pick and choose who have really good credit scores, who have the most to lose,” Seely said.

People impacted need to act immediately, he said.

“Not keeping track of it, not taking any action, is negligent,” Seely said.

The Federal Trade Commission says order a free credit report by going to sites like www.annualcreditreport.com and look for any suspicious activity.

Place a fraud alert with one of the credit reporting agencies like TransUnion. The agency is then required to alert the other two. A fraud alert is free for 90 days and it alerts businesses seeking your information to be more cautious.

Also you can request all three credit reporting agencies to freeze your credit. There is a small fee for most Americans; for others, it is free.

“You can put a lock on your credit so no one can open up a new account without your expressed approval,” Seely said.

Lastly, Seely said, start shopping online with credit cards, not your debit card.

If you shop with your credit card and there is fraud on it, the bank will reimburse you immediately; you are not liable. But if you use a debit card, the bank can take a week or months and "that could be your rent money,” Seely said.

Equifax is providing free credit monitoring but the Federal Trade Commission says if you are worried about signing up with that company, it doesn't blame you.  In fact, the FTC says there isn’t enough information right now about the free service and how it is all going to work.

If you are concerned about enrolling, there are other credit monitoring services outside of the big three.

Also another thing to think about if you enroll with Equifax, you may be waiving your right to sue or join a class-action lawsuit.