There is no doubt that you’ve heard of the massive data breach at Equifax, between mid-May and July 2017, that was made public last week. In light of that, we’ve consulted with our team of financial and credit experts to make it very clear what is at risk and how you should respond.
What happened & what is at risk?
Three important types of information were released:
- Personal details including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers of approximately 143 million U.S. consumers.
- Dispute documents including personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 consumers.
- Account numbers for approximately 209,000 credit card accounts.
Criminals may attempt to access the stolen information to commit fraud in two ways, given the hackers disclosed this information on the black market:
- Make purchases by using stolen account numbers
- Attempt to open accounts in the customer’s name using personal information
How do I protect my credit and credit card accounts?
- Assume your information has been exposed or if you want to be absolutely sure of the possible risk visit Equifax’s Customer Lookup. Even if your data was not compromised, the steps below will reduce your exposure to a wide variety of fraud risks.
- If you want to determine your specific risk visit Equifax’s breach website and begin the enrollment process. Be aware it requires you provide Equifax your social security number.
- Monitor your credit card and other loan accounts and credit report
- Ensure that you see and challenge any recent inquiries shown on your credit report from lenders you have not done business with as they may be fraudulent.
- Sign up for Credit Monitoring from one of the free options from Experian or Transunion both of which are available without a credit card number.
- Check your credit card transaction details at least weekly and immediately dispute any transactions that you don’t recognize.
- Freeze your credit to reduce your exposure. This prevents new credit cards or other loans and services from being approved in your name without your approval. Once this is done you will need to remember to unfreeze your credit report prior to applying for a new loan or service. Make sure to protect the PINs you create.
Background on Credit Reporting Agencies:
There are three major Credit Reporting Agencies in the U.S., Experian, Transunion and Equifax. They collect a variety of personally identifiable information that is highly sensitive: including social security numbers, birth dates, some drivers license numbers, account numbers, account details and some financial related court records. Importantly, Credit Reporting Agencies do not collect or have access to online banking or loan credentials and also do not have any details on checking, savings or investment accounts.