The Equifax Data Breach: Here’s What You Need to Know
Equifax, one of the three largest credit reporting bureaus, announced on Thursday, September 7th, that hackers had gained access to some of its systems, potentially compromising sensitive information for 143 million American consumers. At risk information includes Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers. According to a Wall Street Journal article, this data breach is “a nightmare scenario – all four pieces of information in one place”.
With this in mind, we set out to help you focus on the important facts you need to know and how to protect your information.
Q: Why would Equifax have my name in their database?
A: If you have a car loan, mortgage, credit card or other type of financing, your creditors are reporting their experience with you to Equifax, Experian and/or TransUnion. Each bureau, including Equifax, maintains your payment information in an account on you.
According to the NY Times, if Equifax maintains information about you, the chances are much better than 50 percent that your information is part of this breach.
Q: What are the potential consequences?
A: The attackers may have gained access to your personal information, which would make it easier for the attackers to successfully commit fraud on you and on your accounts.
Q: What can I do about the Equifax compromise?
A: For information about the Equifax compromise, read this announcement on the Equifax website. You will be able to determine if your personal information was exposed and, if it was, it will allow you to sign up for free credit monitoring services from Equifax.
Q: What else can I do to protect myself?
A: For all potential compromises now and in the future, consider these steps:
- Visit the websites of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax.com, Experian.com, Transunion.com, to place security freezes on your credit bureau accounts. A security freeze prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit reports without your knowledge in response to a new credit application, thereby deterring fraudulent attempts to establish credit in your name.
- Enroll in a credit monitoring service, through either the credit bureaus or another reputable vendor, to be made aware of changes in your credit reports.
- Establish a routine to periodically change your passwords associated with your financial accounts.
- Always treat all online correspondence with an abundance of caution.
- Make sure to review your bank and credit card statements closely.
- Monitor your credit accounts monthly through a monthly service available from the credit bureaus or other reputable merchants.