146 million people were potentially affected by the Equifax security breach. To put that into context, that's nearly half of the United States' population.
So were you affected? And if you were, what can you do to protect yourself? Niagara University finance professor Ed Hutton told us three ways you can keep an eye on your information - and how it's used.
Before you complete any of these steps, first go to Equifax.com and follow the big orange button on the home page that reads, "Click Here to Enter." Enter your last name and the last six digits of your SSN (they have all of this information anyway, this is just to verify who you are), and check to see if you have been affected.
There's a good chance you are affected, so if you are, follow the 'enroll' steps to sign up for a year of cost-free credit monitoring. For a full explanation on how to do this, click here to watch our Facebook video.
We've reached step one: place a credit freeze. You can also do this on Equifax's site - it won't cost you anything if you place the freeze before November 21.
A credit freeze basically requires your permission before anyone, even you, does anything with your credit information. This includes applying for a credit card, a mortgage, or a loan. With the credit freeze active, nobody will be able to do anything with your credit until you lift the freeze yourself.
Second: go to one of the three credit monitoring agencies - TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian - and get a copy of your credit report. Go through your entire report - yes, the whole thing - and make sure you can account for every action on there. If something on there wasn't you, contact the agency right away.
Third: sign up for fraud alerts through one of those three credit monitoring agencies. But here's the catch: don't just get notified electronically. Sign up for paper mail notifications.
Hutton suggests doing this because it's easy for someone with your information to disregard the alert, but in his words, "if you're getting a verification that comes to your home, it's gonna be much harder for someone to access that information."
Ed Hutton lays out all three of these points in our Facebook video here.
To recap, first sign up for credit monitoring with Equifax. Then, visit the site of one or more of the three credit monitoring agencies and request your credit report. Download, print, and read through the entire report to make sure there's no shady behavior. Lastly, sign up for paper fraud alerts, and get notified of fraudulent behavior by mail by one of those three credit monitoring sites.