The Latest on the Equifax Breach: How to Find Out If You Were a Victim & What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Credit Bureau Equifax was the latest victim of a massive cyber-attack, the company announced last week.
Between May and July, hackers exploited the Equifax website to gain access to personal information of 143 million US consumers, including names, social security numbers and driver’s license numbers.
To add perspective to that number, about 250 million people over the age of 18 likely have a credit file. This attack was massive, affecting roughly 57% of all American adults.
The “good news”, if there is any, is that it appears credit card numbers of “only” 209,000 individuals (0.14% of victims) were exposed in the attack.
The attack also has some Equifax execs in hot water, as they sold their company stock days after the hack which was yet to be disclosed to the public.
How to Find Out If You Were Affected by the Equifax Breach
With greater than a 50% chance of being affected by this one, it’s a good idea to find out if your file was compromised.
To find out, Equifax has set up a website at equifaxsecurity2017.com. From there, navigate to potential impact and input your last name and the last 6 digits of your nine-digit social security number.
What to Do If You Were Affected by the Equifax Breach
Equifax is offering those affected accesses to TrustedID Premier for free, which includes monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports, with full access to Equifax reports and the ability to lock and unlock those reports for 12 months. The service also scans the web for your social security number.
Along with taking advantage of the free monitoring service, experts suggest signing up for 24/7 credit monitoring services that alert consumers if someone tries to open an account in their name. These services cost about $10 per month, and include features like black market website surveillance and replacement of items from your wallet in the event they’re lost.
It’s also advised to freeze your credit report, which prevents companies who process new lines of credit from accessing your credit report if someone tries to create a new account in your name. While Equifax is offering this service free for a year, this service costs between $3 and $10 for Experian and TransUnion. You will want to freeze your account with all three credit bureaus. Consumers are also urged to strengthen their accounts by using two-factor authentication, by confirming passwords via phone number.
Free services like Credit Karma can also help alert consumers to unusual activity in their credit reports if a big drop in score is seen unfamiliar lines of credit show on your account.
In the wake of such a large attack, thieves may be more apt to take advantage of individuals through phishing attacks. A hacker may have gotten your email address and name through the hack, but does not have your social security number. Be mindful of links you receive via email and who you are giving personal information to.
It’s also advised to file your taxes as soon as possible, since personally identifiable information can be used to file fraudulent tax returns in your name. File your taxes before someone else does it for you (but really, against you.)
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