You may have heard or read in the news that millions of people's sensitive personal information was stolen from Equifax due to a massive cybersecurity data breach. As one of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies, this news is not to be taken lightly. 143 million Americans were affected and you could be one of them.

As per the Federal Trade Commission, "The breach lasted from mid-May through July." What was stolen? Names, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, driver's license numbers, and credit card numbers. Many Canadian and UK citizens were affected as well.

The free-credit-score website, WalletHub has important advice for potential victims of this widespread data breach. These tips can help you deal with the present situation as well as aid in protecting yourself in the future.

24/7 credit monitoring is a valuable protective measure, as per WalletHub. Anthony Credit Expert concurs, "The best way to protect one of your most valuable tools to leverage wealth is with a 24/7 credit monitoring service. Credit Monitoring will keep you informed by providing you with 24/7 alerts and an updated Tri-merge Report and all 3 scores every 30 days." As per WalletHub, "This gives you the chance to quickly confirm the accuracy of the change and, if necessary, start sorting out any problems before they really get out of hand. Any suspicious credit-report change can be a sign of fraud."

WalletHub also recommends enabling two-factor authentication. It adds another layer of protection to inhibit a thief from hacking your account. According to Secure Envoy, "Two Factor Authentication, also known as 2FA, two step verification or TFA is an extra layer of security that is known as "multi factor authentication" that requires not only a password and username but also something that only, and only, that user has on them. Using a username and password together with a piece of information that only the user knows makes it harder for potential intruders to gain access and steal that person's personal data or identity."

Some other ways to keep your data and identity safer? WalletHub suggests freezing your credit cards if you suspect fraud, suppression blocking which is "faster than a standard dispute, helping victims of fraud rid their reports of problematic information in a matter of days, rather than weeks. You must also take special steps to request suppression. This includes filing a police report and completing a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) affidavit," and to be diligent about who you give your personal information to. Look out for unsolicited phone calls or emails.

For more advice from WalletHub during this Equifax breach as well as for protection moving forth, follow these 6 steps to take following identity theft.

You can click here to see if you were potentially impacted by the recent breach.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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