What you should do to protect yourself from giant Equifax data breach

143 million people affected by Equifax hack

DETROIT - The Equifax data breach is a massive hack affecting millions of people and jeopardizing the safety of their personal information.

Click here to find out if you're affected by the Equifax hack

Equifax is under fire and consumers are under attack by cybercriminals who might be working to harm your credit. Help Me Hank is working with experts to reveal what you should do to protect yourself.

It's estimated that 4 million people in Michigan were included in the hack. Now, Hank Winchester has the latest on the investigation and new information on how to secure your personal information.

READIf you want help from Equifax, there are strings attached

Historic security breach

Help Me Hank has received hundreds of emails from viewers -- people who are worried about how the Equifax hack could affect them.

Experts are trying to help victims of the hack felt across the country. Not only is the Equifax hack one of the most significant security breaches in history, but now a criminal investigation could be launched into who knew what, when they knew it and why it took weeks for top management to let the public know.

"One hundred and forty-three million have been affected by this hack," said Melanie Duquesne, of the Better Business Bureau. "That's half of the country.

What we know is this is the information that was hacked included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates and email addresses.

Steps you should take

The first thing you should do, if you haven't already, is go online to check if you're affected. Surprisingly, so far only 10 percent of potential victims have checked their status.

"Equifax has just set up a website called EquifaxSecurity2017.com that you can go to and they'll walk you through a process to (check) if you've been affected or not," Duquense said.

Next, sign up for fraud alerts and freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion and Equifax. The fee and inconvenience is minimal, and it prevents others from opening a line of credit in your name.

"The Federal Trade Commission on their website, on their consumer pages, has very specific directions on how to lock your credit report so people can't use it to their advantage," Duquesne said.

Many people have emailed Help Me Hank asking if they can trust the Equifax website and if they should sign up for the free credit monitoring being offered for a year.

"If you're claiming that Equifax harmed you, to then turn around and to go give Equifax your trust to protect your personal identifying information, I think we don't need to linger too long on the obvious contradiction in that choice," Local 4 legal expert Neil Rockind said.

If you do sign up for the free credit monitoring, Rockind said to remember that, "Equifax may do a very good job of protecting you, but I certainly wouldn't run, and am not running, that into their arms."

The reason freezing your credit is key is because hacks such as this one aren't stopping any time soon.

"Our ability to ward off cyberattacks in this country is not where it should be," Andy Arena said. "That's really kind of the future if you look at terrorism, warfare. I mean, that's a big problem for us."

Arena is a security expert and former head of the FBI in Detroit.

"Everything we do is linked to the computer, linked to the internet," Arena said. "Our banking, our power grid, whatever, is linked to that. If that goes down, our lives are changed forever."

Be proactive about protecting information

It's up to you to be proactive and take steps to protect yourself. The thieves might get your information, but if you protect and monitor all of your accounts, there's not much they can do with those important numbers.

Many people still have questions, and Help Me Hank wants to answer them. You can join Hank and a team of experts live on the Local 4 Facebook page at 11 a.m. Wednesday. They will be talking about the hack and answering questions.

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