It sounds like the ultimate heist from a movie, but unfortunately, the Equifax breach that exposed personal data on nearly 44% of the American population is very real.
Security breaches occur every year, but this doesn’t mean you should just get used to them. While you may not be able to prevent a security breach, you can minimize and reverse any potential damage when you know how to respond. It is especially important for the Equifax breach due to the risk of identity theft.
Here's What Happened in the Equifax Breach
- The breach lasted from mid-May through July, and affects 143 million Americans.
- Hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents (the documents generated when you dispute incorrect information on your credit report) for about 182,000 people.
- Equifax is offering free credit monitoring for 1 year to those who may be affected.
- Equifax faces more than 20 class-action lawsuits.
Here's What You Need to Do About the Equifax Breach:
- Find out if your information was exposed in the Equifax breach at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Use a secure computer with an encrypted internet connection (ie. not a public computer, and not a laptop on an unsecured wifi connection at an airport or coffee shop).
- Watch your mailbox. If your credit card information or dispute records were compromised, Equifax plans to reach out. They will never ask for personal information via email.
- If the Equifax website says you may be affected: check your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com (you can do this once per year for free). Read through the reports looking for any accounts or activity that seems unfamiliar.
- If the Equifax website says you may be affected: Place a credit freeze on your files at all 4 credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, Innovis and TransUnion. This is a preventative measure so no one can pull your credit file—not even you! If you need to access your credit file for legitimate reasons, such as opening a credit card or filing for a loan, you may have to pay a small fee (ranges from free to $15) to unfreeze the file.
- Whether or not you have been affected by the Equifax breach: sign up for credit monitoring. Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring through its company TrustedID Premier, but there are also other services available from providers like LifeLock. Credit monitoring will not protect you from criminals opening fraudulent accounts, but it will alert you to any activity on your credit report. The credit monitoring company will also help you to scrub fraudulent information from your credit reports.
The unfortunate reality is that once your personal information is out there, it’s out there. The best you can do is be vigilant and try to block future attacks on your credit score and identity. In the 21st century, monitoring your credit activity and guarding your private information is akin to previous generations guarding valuables in a safe deposit box at the bank.
The steps above will help you for this particular security breach, but we have also prepared an overview of steps to take in any future attacks.
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION
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