The Quick Way to Tell If You're Affected by the Equifax Breach

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Data breach hacks have become a regular headline in recent years, as companies holding sensitive consumer information have struggled to fend off attacks from cyber-criminals. While you might be feeling indifferent about the latest—a breach of the credit monitoring firm Equifax—you should be aware that it's a particularly large e-heist, affecting nearly two-thirds of the country's population. Social security numbers and driver's license IDs were part of the haul, making identify theft a very real and looming threat for 143 million Americans.

To help consumers determine if their information was disclosed, Equifax has set up a website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Users on the site can enter their name and the last six digits of their social security number and know immediately whether any personal data was breached. Equifax is also offering credit monitoring via TrustedID Premier, which can track suspicious or unauthorized activity on your credit report, provide ID theft insurance, and even scan the web for mentions of your social security number.

If your information was compromised, experts recommend taking two steps. First, consider freezing access to your credit profiles at the three major reporting bureaus—Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. That will prevent anyone (including you) from opening new accounts. Second, services like Lifelock can help walk you through remedies for any potential identity theft.

There's no easy solution for the breach, and consumers may be disheartened to hear that their exposed personal information could circulate on the black market for years to come. But monitoring your score and taking advantage of the resources offered by Equifax can help minimize the damage.

[h/t MarketWatch]

Millennials Get Blamed for a Lot, But They Could Help to Save the U.S. Postal Service

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Millennials get a bad rap for destroying everything from homeownership rates to fabric softener sales, but there's one important traditional industry they're enthusiastic about: the U.S. Postal Service. According to CityLab, a new USPS report [PDF] finds that young people's appreciation for snail mail could help boost the often-struggling agency's fortunes in the future.

Probing for insights into the minds of young people ages 18 to 34 (a little off from the Pew Research Center's definition of Millennials as being people ages 22 to 37), the USPS conducted surveys and hosted live chats online to figure out what Millennials think of the agency, and how the Postal Service can ignite their love of snail mail.

That's vital, because as it is, technological innovations like email and online bill payments are putting the USPS out of business. It lost money for the 11th year in a row in 2017, and while shipping packages is getting more popular (thank you, online shopping habits), it hasn't been enough to offset the decline of mail during that year—mail rates declined by 50 billion pieces in 2017. Young people ages 18 to 34 received an average of 17 pieces of mail each week in 2001, while they only receive 10 now.

But Millennials, it turns out, love mail, even if they don't want to pay their bills with it. As the report observes, "many Millennials still delight in receiving personalized notes or cards around holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions." Three-quarters of respondents said that getting personalized mail from friends and family "makes them feel special." According to the report, around 80 percent of Millennials say they're satisfied with the USPS, around the same rate as older, stamp-loving generations. More Millennials than Boomers, meanwhile, have a USPS.com account, and 59 percent say that the USPS is an innovative organization.

Millennials mentioned several ideas for USPS improvements that already basically exist, like self-service kiosks, at-home package pickup, and Informed Delivery emails, meaning the Postal Service isn't always the best at getting the word out about the cool things it already does. The report also shows that the Postal Service is still working on an augmented reality service that could give you a look at what's inside a package before you open it. (The idea debuted in 2016, but the app was largely limited to showing animated messages.)

The surveys and discussions did come up with a new idea to endear the post office to Millennials: a rewards program. The young people surveyed suggested that members could earn points by buying stamps or mailing packages and use them to redeem discounts or enter contests.

Millennials: They may be ruining vacations, but at least they're ready to save the mail.

[h/t CityLab]

And the Most Miserable State in America Is …

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Where you live has a huge impact on your health and happiness: Location dictates everything from your local weather to crime rates. Each year, the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index interviews 160,000 U.S. adults about their lives, scoring different regions of the country on their residents' well-being and ranking the states based on the overall happiness of the people who live there. This year, according to USA Today, 24/7 Wall Street decided to add to that dataset by analyzing even more socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, and elsewhere, such as poverty rates, crime, social ties, and health across the U.S. The result is a more complete picture of how happy some states are, and how miserable others are.

Some of the rankings might surprise you. Both Dakotas made it into the top 10, with South Dakota taking the overall prize for the happiest state. In the survey, residents reported a high sense of purpose, saying they like what they do each day and have reached most of their goals in the last year. More than 80 percent of respondents said they like what they do daily, more than any other state. In other high-scoring states, residents report a strong sense of security, good public health, and strong social ties. (Low crime and unemployment rates help.)

Here are the 10 happiest states in the U.S., according to the rankings.

1. South Dakota
2. Vermont
3. Hawaii
4. Minnesota
5. North Dakota
6. Colorado
7. New Hampshire
8. Idaho
9. Utah
10. Montana

Meanwhile, economic concerns and high crime dominate the responses within the rankings of the most miserable states in the U.S. West Virginia, the least happy state on the list, is plagued by financial insecurity and poor health outcomes. In the survey, West Virginians had the lowest numbers of people who said they were in "near perfect" physical health, liked what they do every day, or have strong social ties. Other states in the top 10 list of least happy states include Louisiana and Arkansas, both of which have some of the highest rates of poverty and violent crime in the country. In Oklahoma, one out of five people who responded to the survey said they struggled to afford food, and in Kentucky, 23 percent of respondents said they have been depressed in their lifetime.

These are the 10 most miserable states, according to these calculations.

1. West Virginia
2. Louisiana
3. Arkansas
4. Mississippi
5. Oklahoma
6. Kentucky
7. Ohio
8. Nevada
9. Indiana
10. Rhode Island

Head to USA Today to see the full list.

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