PHOENIX - Credit reporting agency Equifax is offering a year of free credit monitoring after hackers stole the personal information of 143 million people.
But the offer comes with a catch, and experts are warning you could probably do better on your own.
Equifax set up a website where consumers can check to see if their information was compromised and, if it was, sign up for the monitoring service. But, hidden in the terms of service, is a paragraph spelling out what you give up as a result.
If you agree to Equifax's credit monitoring, the agreement says you give up your right to sue the company down the road, or be involved in a class-action lawsuit. Instead, you agree to arbitration.
And the credit monitoring offer is only good for one year. Experts warn thieves can use your personal information for years after this hack, and any credit monitoring after one year is your responsibility to pay for.
"A lot of people can't afford it," Mike Sullivan with the credit counseling service Take Charge America said. "And they're not doing anything you can't do yourself."
Instead, Sullivan said consumers can keep a close eye on their finances. You're entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every year. Sullivan said it's a good idea to get a report from a different agency every four months. That way, you're monitoring your own credit year-round.
Other experts say you can do things like set up transaction alerts on your bank account that will alert you to any transaction over a set limit. That way, you're alerted to any purchase you didn't make.
Equifax said hackers stole the personal information, including Social Security numbers, from May to July. The company announced the hack on Thursday and said it has fixed the security hole.
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