The Federal Trade Commission has a list of steps consumers can take to protect themselves, such as seeking a credit freeze to prevent others from opening accounts under their names.
Lenders use Equifax information to determine risks in financing people's mortgages and credit cards. That restricts access to your credit information, which makes it more hard for hackers to open accounts in your name. Later, you can ask each service to unfreeze access to your account at any time if you want to.
Go to Equifax.com and click on the link there that will allow you to check whether your information was hacked. The U.S. government can still see someone's credit during a freeze, but creditors can't, reports Bankrate.com.
"To confirm, enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not prohibit consumers from taking legal action".
Some consumers said Equifax needs to take more steps to make amends, such as offering free credit monitoring services for several years or longer, not just one year. The services typically cost $9.99 per month to $30 per month, Baird says.
The data breach, which lasted from at least mid-May through July, potentially affected 143 million Americans whose Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, birth dates and addresses were compromised, along with credit card numbers of about 209,000 consumers, according to Equifax.
Senator Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Finance Committee, and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden, also demanded that Equifax chief executive Rick Smith provide a timeline of the breach and its discovery.
While Equifax found out about the cyber heist on July 29, it didn't tell customers until last week. "It poses an identity-theft threat to tens of millions of people", said Jocelyn Baird, associate editor of NextAdvisor, a consumer information website.
"The Equifax breach has potentially exposed sensitive personal information of almost everyone with a credit report, and my office intends to get to the bottom of how and why this massive hack occurred", he said. Consumers could start cutting back on credit card purchases or choosing not to save their card numbers and other personal data on retailer websites or in digital wallets.