Important Information Regarding the Equifax Data Breach
EQUIFAX DATA BREACH
This past week one of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, reported a data breach involving up to 143 million consumers within the US. The breach occurred from mid-May through July of this year. Information potentially exposed includes the names of consumers, Social Security numbers, birth dates, address information, some driver's license numbers, some credit card numbers and some dispute documents containing personal identifying information. In response to this breach, Equifax is offering free credit monitoring services to consumers. Below are some helpful tips on what you can do to protect your information from being misused.
HOW TO CHECK IF YOU ARE AFFECTED:
Equifax has established a website for consumers to check to see if their information was exposed. The web address is www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Simply access the site, click on the "Potential Impact" tab, and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. The site will verify if you are affected by this breach.
Equifax has reported that they will offer one year free credit monitoring services to all consumers who enroll, regardless if they were impacted. Once the verification process has been completed, the site will walk consumers through the enrollment process. The enrollment process is a two-step process and the experience may be different for each consumer. Some consumers will receive an enrollment date with instructions to visit the website on that date to complete the enrollment process, while other consumers may be transferred directly to the Trusted ID website to complete the enrollment process immediately. Consumers are advised to follow the instructions given by Equifax if they wish to take advantage of the free credit monitoring services.
Monitor your credit reports — Consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three national credit bureaus. This includes Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Credit reports can be obtained by visiting https://www.annualcreditreport.com.
Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit file — When a company accesses your credit report for a new account, new loan, cell phone service, or utility service, the fraud alert will appear, signaling the need to verify that it is you conducting the activity before approving credit. Most lenders will reach out to you by phone to verify. A fraud alert can be placed by visiting the website of any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Once you have placed the alert with one of the three bureaus, the other two bureaus will be notified. Fraud alerts must be renewed every 90 days.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit file — A freeze is often placed when identity theft has been experienced. It restricts access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for new accounts to be opened. A freeze involves more interaction should you wish to open a new account or credit line. Please note, a credit freeze does not prevent fraud from occurring on existing accounts.
Monitor your existing accounts — This includes credit cards, lines of credit, financial accounts, etc. Watch closely for unauthorized activity.
File your taxes early — In the past few years, there has been an increase in tax identity theft. This is where fraudsters file tax returns, usually with large refunds, using consumer information compromised in a breach.
Reset account access information — It is always a good practice to periodically reset account passwords, PIN codes and other log-in credentials on financial accounts that may be vulnerable.
Enroll in multi-factor authentication services — Financial service companies, cell phone providers, and email service providers generally provide some type of multi-factor authentication solution where a pass code or one time token must be entered before allowing access to the account. Multi-factor authentication provides an additional layer of security to help protect your accounts.
For additional information you can visit the Federal Trade Commission's website at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do