Equifax data breach: what it means, and what you should do about it
Hackers recently breached the database of credit giant Equifax
Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and other non-public personal information stored in the company’s database has been stolen. The thieves also managed to get credit card information for 209,000 cardholders. Equifax discovered the breach on July 29 of this year, although the unauthorized activity began in mid-May. The company took immediate steps to repair the breach.
This break-in affects over 143 million people—nearly 43% of the entire U.S. population. It is the largest data breach in history. You can find out whether your information has been affected by calling Equifax’s call center at 866-447-7559. They are open from 7:00 am to 1:00 PM EDT, 7 days a week. You can also search for your information at Equifax’s site for the purpose, equifaxsecurity2017.com.
The odds are high that your information has been affected. Here are the steps you should take now to protect yourself:
- Sign up for credit monitoring. Houz’s credit partners are recommending credit monitoring from ProCredit.
- You can place a “credit freeze” on your credit file with each of the three credit bureaus. This will prevent anyone from accessing your credit file without your express permission. Be aware that this could create short delays in getting a mortgage or consumer finance, such as car loans.
- Pay close attention to your bank and credit card statements. If you don’t currently have online access to your accounts, now would be a good time to set it up. This way, you can check your account activity at any time, without having to wait for a monthly statement.
- Don’t simply discard paperwork with non-public personal information such as Social Security number, date of birth or driver’s license information. Shred it to avoid the possibility of some thief’s “dumpster diving” to steal your personal information for nefarious purposes.
- Check all three credit bureaus regularly. Are there inquiries into your file that look unfamiliar? Are there any credit accounts you don’t remember? The earlier you discover these and take steps, the less chance of damage to you.
- Don’t click on any links in email unless you are completely confident that you know the sender. The text of a link may seem legitimate, but the code taking you to the website could do damage. Hover over the link before clicking to reveal where it wants to take you.
A data breach like this one can cause immense damage to many people. You can avoid being among the victims by taking steps early to protect yourself. Your best defense is constant vigilance and awareness.You should take this seriously.