Equifax, one of the three main credit reporting companies, announced last week that the personal information of 143 million people was exposed in a data breach – one of the largest in U.S. history. Since then, there has been confusion about who was impacted and their rights as a result. Additional information is being released daily. Let’s looks at what we know and what you should do.
Equifax announced the breach more than a month after hackers had access to social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers and other personal information. In their initial response, the company included an offer for free credit monitoring. But with that offer, they included the stipulation that those who signed up for the monitoring would not be able to sign up for any class action lawsuit that might follow if the option was not opted out of in writing within 30 days. However, days later, Equifax announced they removed the clause. Still, this leaves thousands wondering how they can protect their identity.
Consumer financial records containing personal information were stolen from the servers where Equifax stores the information compiled from credit card companies, banks, retailers and other lenders. Hackers can open bank accounts, receive loans and get approved for credit cards in your name with that information. They can also collect your tax refund and falsify medical records! The question upon hearing news like this shouldn’t be ‘was I effected,’ but instead ‘what do I do now.’
While the breach impacts a large number of people, not everyone was affected. Only those whose credit card numbers or dispute records were accessed will be notified by Equifax by mail. All others should visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ to see if there was a possibility you were affected.
If you find out your information was stolen, immediately contact all financial institutions with whom you do business and change all account passwords. In addition, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft and then visit www.IdentityTheft.gov, a free resource provided by the government that offers a wealth of free knowledge. Freezing your credit is an option, but should be used as last resort because it can further complicate the situation.
No matter if your information was stolen or not, you’ll have to keep monitoring your credit report for quite some time. It’s a safe bet to get copies of your report from all three credit reporting companies to make sure the information is the same. Request free reports annually at www.annualcreditreport.com. There are also free and low cost websites that will give you access more frequently, including both Experian and TransUnion. You can also enroll in an identity theft protection program, such as LifeLock® or IdentityForce® that alert you if fraud is detected.
Protect Your Company
According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, information technology / information security is the number one issue facing companies today, and it doesn’t just happen to large businesses like Equifax. Remember, the hackers got the information from the servers. You need to understand your company’s security risks, what to do in the event of a breach and how to maintain a sound defense against hackers.
Don’t let it take months or even years to learn if you were a victim of identity theft in the Equifax data breach, or wait until your company is hacked. PBMares cares about keeping you and your company’s information safe. Call us today so we make sure your identity, and finances, are protected.