There’s a good chance some of your personal information has been compromised. Over the summer, an Equifax data breach exposed the personal details of 143 million Americans. As a result, a large percentage of the U.S. population may be vulnerable to identity theft.
On September 8th, credit reporting agency Equifax confessed to a major data breach. If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. It affected 143 million Americans – nearly half of the US population – and 100,000 Canadian consumers. Unfortunately, this means that the hackers may have access to highly sensitive personal and financial information, allowing them to carry out follow-on attacks and identity fraud attempts.
Equifax is one of the big three credit bureaus in the United States: organizations that collect data on consumers so that lenders can determine how much they should give out in loans. The Atlanta-based firm has a huge trove of personally identifying information (PII) including names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers.
The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada as well.
There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
- Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until January 31, 2018 to enroll.
- You also can access frequently asked questions.
Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:
- Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
- Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
Here’s a great article to read titled Cyber Risk & Liabilities on how your employees’ personal details could compromise your cyber security as a business owner.
Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.
While this breach affected consumers, businesses should worry about cyber security as well. This is a wakeup call. If Equifax was vulnerable, then your business is too, and the ramifications of a data breach are extremely expensive. In fact, cybercrime is now one of the greatest risks facing businesses of all sizes. Ask your insurance agent about the insurance options available to help protect your business.