Here's why you should file 2018 taxes early

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Thought your information wasn't stolen in the Equifax breach? You may want to check again.

A FOX19 NOW viewer says he used the Equifax online tool to see if his file was among those stolen by hackers. He got a "no" when he checked several days ago, but then checked again -- and it now says he is one of the victims.

Hopefully by now you've visited to see if your information was among the data stolen by hackers from the credit bureau earlier this year. At least 143 million Americans were hit by this one, with hackers getting names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and more.

But if you checked and got a "no" response from Equifax, you may not be in the clear. CNET tested the Equifax tool by typing in phony names, and random digits, and got some "Yes" responses, and some "No" responses. This is why fraud experts say the safest bet is to assume your data was stolen.

Our advice? Freeze your credit to prevent anyone from opening accounts in your name.

Here's what Britt Scearce of the Emery Federal Credit Union had to say:

"This breach is much more severe, in the sense that they got all of your personal information, not just maybe your credit card number that could be canceled, and then reissued on you. They actually got your name, address, social security number, possibly even your driver's license number, they have the ability to perhaps even take over your current accounts, so it's going to be vital that you're actually reading your current statements on the accounts you already have, not just being worried about whether they're going to open up new accounts in your name."

Experts also say thieves may sit on that stolen data until next tax season and use it to file phony tax returns, and collect the refunds.

The Simply Money point: You'll need to file your taxes early next year in order to beat them to the punch.

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