Equifax, the credit reporting agency that recently disclosed a massive security breach has released reports of an additional 2.5 million consumers impacted—bringing the total number of those affected to more than 145 million consumers. Sensitive personal information was made vulnerable in this historic breach, which occurred from mid-May through July 2017, and wasn’t reported publicly until September.
The impact of this breach is wide in scope, as it enabled hackers to access consumers’ names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and even some driver’s license numbers. Credit card numbers were stolen from at least 209,000 people—as were dispute documents for nearly 182,000 more. Consumers in Canada and the United Kingdom were also impacted by this security breach.
On October 3, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified before Congress about the breach, citing the error of a single employee for the security lapse. There are now bipartisan calls for more government scrutiny of what The New York Times calls a “largely unregulated credit reporting industry.”
As a review, here are some quick steps you can take to protect yourself as a consumer:
- Monitor: As always, your first step to protecting your information is monitoring your credit reports at all three reporting agencies. You can accomplish this for free by signing up at annualcreditreport.com, or simply continue monitoring your credit on an annual basis if you were already doing so.
- Freeze: If you are concerned that your credit information may have been compromised, contact each of the big three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) and request that they put a fraud alert or a freeze on your files. A credit freeze prevents thieves from opening new accounts by using your information; however, it will not stop thieves from attempting charges on any of your existing accounts. If you are in the process of purchasing a home or a vehicle, you may want to consider freezing your credit after your purchase has been completed.
- Inquire: Do you want to find out if your information was exposed, directly from the source? On a secure computer with an encrypted network, you can visit com, and select the “Potential Impact” link. Although many experts have advised against it, Equifax is offering a free year of credit monitoring for those affected. If you decide to accept the credit monitoring, make sure to read all of the terms and conditions carefully.
- Be Proactive: Identity thieves can try to use your information to apply for a job, or to claim your income tax refund, so consider filing your taxes as early as you can to keep your refunds safe.
To learn more about immediate steps to take after a security or data breach, visit www.identitytheft.gov/databreach. Or call Pope McGlamry at 877-285-7656 for a consultation with our consumer protection experts.