Other than natural disasters, the big news this week is about the disaster of the massive data theft of 143 million consumer’s personal data from national credit bureau Equifax.  This is a situation that is expected to affect a lot of lives, especially home buyers and mortgage applicants. Why?

Most American with a credit history could have addresses, Social Security numbers, driver’s license and credit card numbers stolen.  These could be made available to the highest bidders on the Dark Web. 

Since there is a significant amount of information on file at the credit bureaus for home buyers and mortgage applicants, this group is especially at risk. This could cause serious problems down the road, especially during the buying process.

But don’t worry, as you can take steps to protect your identity and credit.  You can lock down your credit files with fraud alerts or credit file freezes, which will prevent people from opening accounts in your name and will prevent them from getting credit reports.

The FTC has helpful information on identify-theft countermeasures at consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft. And if you’re thinking of doing a freeze, a good site is uspirg.org/resources/usp/protect-yourself-against-new-account-id-theft. You can also get free, three-bureau credit monitoring service being offered by Equifax at equifaxsecurity2017.com. The most important first step is to check your three credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com and see whether anyone has compromised your accounts.