By now you’ve no doubt hear about the massive data theft of 143 million consumer’s personal data from national credit bureau Equifax.  The problems this theft will cause could affect a lot of lives.  It could especially affect home buyers and mortgage applicants.

It’s likely that sensitive information was stolen from most Americans with credit, including addresses, Social Security numbers, driver’s license and credit card numbers.  These could be made available to the highest bidders on the Dark Web. 

Those at the highest risk may be home buyers and mortgage applicants, since they have a significant amount of information on file at the credit bureaus. This could cause serious problems down the road, especially during the buying process.

There’s no need to panic, as steps can be taken to protect yourself.  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 been tampering with your accounts.