Equifax breach affects millions of Americans

We're still learning about one of the biggest breaches ever.

On Sept. 7, Equifax announced a data breach, where hackers gained access to company data that included sensitive information for millions of Americans. Up to 143 million Americans may have had their names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and other vital information accessed. It also looks like the hack compromised 209,000 people’s credit card numbers and personal dispute details for another 182,000 individuals. This breach happened between mid-May and July. The hack was discovered on July 29 and Equifax informed the public more than a month later.

The Equifax breach is one of the biggest ever and leaves people in the U.S., U.K., and Canada at risk for identity theft.

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith.

Using this personal and sensitive information, identity thieves have the ability to impersonate individuals to creditors, lenders and service providers.

Equifax is now doing damage control, but so far it hasn’t seemed to be enough to calm nerves and prevent initial confusion.

Per the Sept. 7 statement:

Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. The offering, called TrustedID Premier, includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers - all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year. The website also provides additional information on steps consumers can take to protect their personal information. Equifax recommends that consumers with additional questions visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com or contact a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559, which the company set up to assist consumers. The call center is open every day (including weekends) from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.

In addition to the website, Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted.

While there have been complaints that the site doesn’t do much to verify whether or not an individual’s information has been compromised, there seems to be overall consensus that it’s more likely than not your information has been accessed.

When it comes to what to do next, you’ve probably heard all of these tips before, but now you have even more reason to do them now.

On Sept. 8, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a formal investigation into the hack. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into the breach, too, so hopefully we’ll find out more information on how this happened and who’s behind it soon.

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  1. Monitor your own credit reports. They’re available for free once every year, so it might be best to stagger them so you see one every four months or so.

  2. Keep in mind that this isn’t something that will be over soon. The hackers who have the data could use it at any time, and since much of the data that stays the same through your entire life, they very well could wait a while to use it.

  3. Freeze your credit reports. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but it does stop identity thieves from opening credit cards or loans in your name. If you find that you need to apply for something in the future, just remember to lift the freeze before. (via ABC)