Equifax data has been breached and it could potentially affect 143 million U.S. customers.* The hackers had access to Equifax data from May 2017 until July 2017, which included Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers, among other data. Equifax detected the breach on July 29, and has hired a cybersecurity firm to determine what data the hackers accessed. In the time it took for the company to alert customers who could be affected, hackers could have used their data for purposes including opening credit cards or other lines of credit.
Here’s how to know if you were affected and what to do next:
Check if your data was breached
Equifax has created a website consumers can check if their data was breached, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. The company said it would offer a free year of service from its subsidiary, TrustedID, which monitors credit reports from Equifax as well as Experian, and TransUnion, as well as offering identity theft insurance and internet scanning for social security numbers. Equifax will also send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or personal information were impacted.
Freeze your credit reports
"Many credit bureau protections don’t detect nontraditional accounts fraudsters might try to open, such as payday loans or demand deposit accounts", said Al Pascual, a senior vice president and research director at the security firm Javelin. "Customers should immediately freeze their accounts at all three credit bureaus", said Adam Levin, a consumer advocate and chairman of security firm CyberScout. This restricts access to your credit report, which helps prevent other credit card companies accessing it to open up new accounts.
Contact Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to request a freeze. That service can cost anywhere from $3 to $10, but will prevent anyone from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment or buying insurance with your account information. A “freeze” basically prevents other legitimate companies from accessing your report, such as those who need to check it as part of a loan application.
Sign up for additional fraud protection
Those affected should sign up for services that go beyond typical credit freezing and alert services, such as Lifelock, EZ Shield and Identity Guard. The most basic version of Lifelock costs $9.99 per month and provides benefits including address change verification, help cancelling or replacing lost credit cards, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and insurance cards, plus a “restoration team” that helps correct any identity theft issues and black market website surveillance.
Alert your bank and companies overseeing any other financial accounts, and strengthen passwords with two-factor authentication (password and confirmation via phone number). Data breaches may also lead to phishing scams: Companies should never ask for a full social security number or driver’s license, they should confirm your card number, zip code and one or two security questions. When a consumer is a victim of identity theft or fraud, the last thing companies should do is pressure customers to give you more information.