Equifax data breach: What to know, what to do

Equifax data breach: What to know, what to do
An Equifax data breach has exposed the personal data of millions of consumers. (DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)

Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus, experienced a data breach from mid-May through July 2017 that exposed personal data of 143 million Americans.

Exposed information includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, some credit card numbers, and credit dispute documents.

How do I know if I was exposed?

Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com, go to the “potential impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number, and the site will tell you if your data was exposed by this breach.

Make sure you only access this site on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection because you’re required to enter sensitive information in order to perform this check.

I’ve been exposed; now what?

From now and through the indefinite future, keep a close eye on your credit. Check your statements and credit reports for unusual activity, which could be a sign of attempted identity theft.

Consider putting a credit freeze on your files to prevent someone with your information from opening a new line of credit in your name. You can do this through Equifax, Transunion and Experian. Keep in mind that while the freeze is active, you won’t be able to open a new credit account either, so make sure to remove the freeze a few days before attempting to obtain any new credit.

File your taxes as early as possible in order to get them in before any identity thief can attempt to fraudulently file in your name.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a time in the future when you can relax on any of these steps. Now that your information is out there, there is always a chance that someone could make an attempt to use it illegally. Stay vigilant in monitoring to stop any credit fraud attempts before they get too far.

Anything else?

Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring to everyone, regardless of whether they were impacted by this breach. Consumers have until Nov. 21, 2017, to enroll in this service. The monitoring can assist consumers in detecting and preventing credit fraud.

Despite initial reports of legal language on the Equifax website that prevented consumers from suing the company if they signed up for the free monitoring, Equifax said Friday that particular provision would not apply to this breach.

Accountability could be coming to Equifax for this breach, with state attorneys from several states promising to investigate, and potential congressional hearings looming in the future.

Investigations will also look into the sale of $1.8 million worth of company shares by three Equifax executives, which took place just days after the breach. The company has maintained the executives did not have knowledge of the breach when they sold the shares, according to ABC News.

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