Smart step if you're panicked about Equifax breach

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and AP) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and AP)

The Equifax security breach impacted about 143 million consumers. You're likely one of them, and you're probably a little scared, so how can you avoid falling prey to identity thieves?

[ORIGINAL STORY: Giant Equifax data breach: 143 million people could be affected]

[RELATED: How to find out if you're affected by the Equifax hack]

Maybe you're thinking to pay a company to monitor your credit. Should you freeze your credit? For some consumers, the answer to those questions is yes. But for others, just some simple protective steps may be all you need.

[DATA DOC: Equifax data breach: Should I enroll in TrustedID Premier?]

When Tina Latten learned about the massive Equifax security breach, she started to panic.

"Thieves can stop your Social Security; they can stop his military (referring to her husband in the room). This was not OK with me," Latten said.

Immediately after, Latten found two unauthorized charges from Bloomingdale's on her credit card account.

"So, Bloomingdale's said, 'It's not your email that ordered the products," and I said I'd like the email. They said, 'We can't give it to you, by law,'" Latten said.

Calling the merchant to confirm what the charges are is smart, but once consumers know fraud is involved they don't need any further information.

"Credit card company, that's the one that's going to help you," Latten said.

Just call your card issuer. You have zero liability for fraud; let them conduct the investigation with the merchant and police. The key for Latten, and everyone impacted by the Equifax breach, is checking card activity.

"I only did it once a month. Sometimes I only didn't do it at all because I kind of knew the balance, but now I'm going to be doing it every day or every other day," Latten said.

The more often, the better. And act quickly if you spot a problem.

"The faster you move, the faster things can be declined, and you can show your credit card company that you're on top of everything," Latten said.

So, if you're concerned about the Equifax breach -- and you should be -- and you don't want to pay someone to watch your credit or accept Equifax's free monitoring for a year, you now see how checking your card account every day can protect you.

The other thing you must do is check your credit report. It's free at Look for any accounts that you didn't open and report those to the lenders and credit bureaus right away.

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