Equifax Security Breach – Catch Identity Theft Early
On July 29, 2017, Equifax, one of three large U.S. credit bureaus discovered that it had experienced a data breach. The news went public on September 7, but the breach occurred over a period of time earlier in the year—from mid-May through July. According to the Equifax consumer notice, the breach compromised the credit card numbers of about 209,000 consumers, and dispute documents containing personal identifying information (names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers) of about 182,000 consumers. All in all as many as 143 million in the United States could be impacted.
In response to the breach, Equifax constructed a website to offer information about the breach and its impact on consumers. The bureau has also offered free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection to all U.S. consumers and has established a call center to handle questions and concerns about the breach. The call center is available at 866-447-7559, from 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM (EST).
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Unfortunately, cybercrime and identity theft is becoming more prevalent in the U.S., with the technology used to access personal information becoming more sophisticated by the moment. Every day, criminals find ways to access identifying information that enables them to reconstruct and use a person’s identity for criminal purposes.
Was your information stolen?
Equifax offers an online portal, where you can find out if your personal information was compromised. As mentioned above, they also promise free credit file monitoring and protection from identity theft for all U.S. consumers (enrollment ends on November 21, 2017). The first step for anyone who is concerned about the safety of their personal information is to visit the website and take advantage of these offers.
What else can you do?
Here are some additional ways you can keep an eye on your accounts and ensure that your information is not being used to make purchases or open accounts:
- Check your credit report regularly—the top three credit bureaus offer one free credit check per year, which enables you to see all of your credit accounts, credit inquiries, and collections reporting (including bankruptcies, foreclosures, liens, etc.). Read your credit report closely to make sure it contains only accounts and activities you are aware of.
- Set alerts on your accounts to let you know when they have been used. By using alerts, you can catch the criminal after their first violation and protect yourself from further attacks by shutting down your credit card or closing your account(s).
- Review your account statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized charges. This is a good reason to use online banking, which allows you to check in on your accounts as often as you would like.
- If you find that your credit card or other financial account(s) have been compromised, you can follow step by step procedures offered on the Federal Trade Commission website.
Monitoring your accounts/credit information shoul dalways be a top priority and the Equifax breach is a good reminder to remain vigilant in keeping watch over your personal information and accounts. By making it a practice to routinely check your accounts and your credit, you reduce the consequences of identity theft, should it happen to you by catching criminal behavior early.