4 months ago
Even if you have never heard of or used the credit reporting agency Equifax, you could still be affected by the most recent hack, because it is possible the company has your personal information.
Equifax said that 143 million people could be affected by a recent data breach, reports CNN. The cybercriminals stole information including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, address, and some driver’s license numbers.
But that’s not all. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 people were exposed, as well as “personal identifying information” of about 182,000 customers involved in “credit report disputes,” reports CNN.
So how could it have your information, even if you’ve never used them? CNN explains that Equifax gathers data from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders, all without consumers ever knowing. They are one of three nationwide credit-reporting companies. So they track and rate the financial history of consumers.
What now? Equifax will not be contacting everyone who was affected, CNN reports, but is planning on sending direct mail notices to those whose “credit card numbers or dispute records were accessed.”
Whether or not you’ve been affected by the breach, Equifax is suggesting you sign up for a credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. They are offering a free one-year service to everyone, affected or not, through TrustedID Premier. Signing up is easy, you just go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click Check Potential Impact tab. To start, you enter your name and last six digits of you social, and then you will be given a date and time you can come back on and sign up for the service.
CNN says that once you sign up, you are supposed to receive a message that tells you whether or not you were affected by the breach, but it is unclear when or how you will receive that message.
Another suggestion from Equifax: check your account statements and credit reports yourself. There are multiple ways to do that, but CNN says you get a free copy once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — if you sign up at www.annualcreditreport.com.
One final way to protect yourself is by placing fraud alerts on your credit reports. CNN spoke to credit expert John Ulzheimer, who previously worked at FICO and Equifax, who explained that these alerts mean a lender must verify your identity before it issues a credit in your name.
Ulzheimer also suggested putting a “long term freeze on your credit,” which takes your credit report out of circulation. Why is this helpful? Because the lender will not be able to pull your report or extend the credit, and only you can temporarily lift the freeze.
Ulzheimer called it an “extreme measure” but since 143 million people were exposed, he recommends taking it.
If you have more questions about how to protect yourself, the Federal Trade Commission’s website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft, also offers information.