You probably have heard about the data breach at Equifax. In case you have missed it, here is a quick summary.
Last week, Equifax announced that someone had hacked into its servers and stole people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and some driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal information for about 182,000. Equifax estimates that a total of 143 million Americans were affected by this breach.
Equifax is one of the three credit reporting agencies that sell information to lenders and credit-scoring companies to determine consumer’s eligibility for loans, lines of credit, and other functions such as employment. The other credit agencies are Experian and TransUnion. The danger of this breach is that hackers, scammers, and fraudsters worldwide can use your personal information for purchases, to take out loans in your name, file for Income Tax refunds in your name, etc.
While the breach and how Equifax has handled the breach has caused controversy in the press and in Congress, there are actions that you should take that will help to protect yourself. This breach is serious enough that the Washington State Attorney General issued recommendations for actions Washington consumers should take:
· Find out of your information was compromised. Equifax has set up a website, https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to allow consumers to research if they have been affected. There have been several stories in the press questioning the reliability of this website, however.
· Consider placing a credit freeze with each of the credit agencies. A credit freeze makes it more difficult for someone to open an account in your name. If you will be applying for new credit, or applying for something that requires checking your credit such as buying a new car, renting an apartment or applying for a new job, you should temporarily lift the freeze to allow the financial institution to check your credit.
· Check your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
· Regularly review your bank statements, credit card statements and other account statements for suspicious charges. Remember, fraudsters often make small chargers to accounts to see if the accounts are being watched. Report any suspicious transactions immediately to your bank or credit card company.
· If you believe that there has been unauthorized activity on your accounts or that you have become a victim of identity theft, take the following actions:
o Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov
o Place a credit freeze on your credit files.
o File a police report and send a copy to the three major credit reporting agencies
In addition to the actions above, the AARP Fraud Watch Network suggests,
· Adding a fraud alert to your credit report. A fraud alert tells lenders and creditors who check your credit report to take additional steps to verify your identification before extending credit in your name.
· Consider hiring an identity theft protection service.
Taking actions to protect your identity from a breach can seem complicated and time consuming. Here are some up to date resources that will help you.
Washington State Attorney General:
AARP Fraud Watch Network:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
Here is an explanation about Identity Theft Protection Services-
This link explains the difference between fraud alerts and credit freezes-
And an alert from the FTC, no, Equifax is not calling you-