Equifax Data Breach
Last week, one of the three major credit bureaus in the U.S., Equifax, announced a data breach that could affect 143 million people, which is nearly half of the country’s population. We want to provide our customers with a summary of the news and recommend steps for protecting your personal information.
Equifax discovered the data breach on July 29. They found that personal information, including names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, and possibly driver’s licenses were part of the leaked data. The initial investigation revealed that attackers exploited an application vulnerability that allowed them to access files with the personally identifiable information.
The credit reporting firm is now notifying all impacted customers by mail and continuing to work with both private and public investigators. While the majority of impacted consumers are in the U.S., Equifax said that a portion of UK and Canadian consumers are also affected.
In addition, Equifax created a website – www.equifaxsecurity2017.com – this allows consumers to determine if they’re impacted by the breach and learn more about the incident.
What You Can Do Now
Start by visiting the Equifax security site to determine if you’re impacted by the breach, but don’t stop there. Here’s what else you should do to secure any information that’s potentially leaked, and protect from future incidents:
- Sign up for credit monitoring: Equifax is offering affected customers 1 year of free credit monitoring. Please note, that there have been unconfirmed reports by utilizing this free service offered by Equifax it may prevent participation in any future class action suits. As a result, you may want to obtain credit monitoring on your own.
- Freeze your credit files: Make sure you’ve signed up for credit monitoring before you freeze your credit. Once you freeze it, you will not be able to sign up for the monitoring to be notified of any unauthorized changes that could occur if your information has been stolen.
The benefit to freezing your credit in this scenario is that it prevents anyone – authorized or unauthorized – from applying for credit in your name. In the wake of the Equifax news where many of us are unsure who has our personal information, these steps will block any and all activity. It also protects your credit score as each inquiry impacts it overall.
To do this, you have to contact each of the credit monitoring firms directly (here are the direct links: Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, and Innovis) and request the freeze. It can take some time (and sometimes a small fee) but in this scenario, this is a step we highly recommend. When you freeze, each firm will give you a pin code to use when you want to unfreeze. Store each pin in a safe place!
- Monitor your bank and credit cards: Easily overlooked in a world where everything happens online and we take it for granted that nothing has gone wrong. Especially after a breach like this, it’s important to take note of what’s going on with your accounts.
4. Keep up your strong password behavior: Your passwords are the gatekeepers to everything you do online, whether it’s your Western account, 401(k), or your step-tracking app. Unauthorized access to any of these could be detrimental, and using long, strong, unique passwords for every single account and storing those in a password manager is strongly recommended.