Equifax Data Breach

The following is some very good information from the Federal Trade Commission’s website about the Equifax Data Breach.  There are several links within this page to other information on the FTC website to clarify some information. 

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.

Here are the facts, according to Equifax. 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 too.

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 November 21, 2017 to enroll.
  • You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.
  • Here are some other steps to take to help protect you 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.  There may be a nominal fee to place a freeze.  You can contact the three credit agencies at the following numbers:
    • Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
    • Experian — 1 888-397-3742
    • TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
  • 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.

Credit Freezes and Fraud Alerts:

Many people have had very sensitive personal information exposed in the Equifax breach — Social Security numbers, account numbers, even drivers’ license numbers. Equifax is offering free credit freezes until November 21, 2017. The company also will refund fees to anyone who already paid for freezes since September 7, when it announced the breach. If you’re thinking of placing a freeze, read this first.

A freeze means that no one (including you) can access your credit file until you unfreeze it, using a PIN or passphrase. That makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.

To be effective, you must place a freeze with all three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Transunion and Experian. That’s because when a thief tries to take out new credit, a business can pull your credit report from any of the three agencies. If you’ve only frozen your Equifax file and the business checks with Experian or Transunion, your Equifax freeze does you no good.

There’s also cost to consider. A freeze can cost you money every time you freeze and unfreeze your file. While Equifax will let you place or lift a freeze for free until November 21, TransUnion and Experian are not offering free freezes. And, as of now, Equifax’s offer will end on November 21. That means that any time you need to get new credit, you’ll need to lift the freeze, then place it again, with each of the three agencies — at a cost of $5 to $10 per agency each time, depending on your state’s law.

But wait, you say, I heard that freezes are free for identity theft victims. So, will I get free freezes from the other two agencies too? No. An identity theft victim is someone whose information not only has been exposed, but also has been misused. If you’re a data breach victim, your information is at greater risk of misuse but unless that happens, you’re not an identity theft victim and not entitled to free freezes on that basis.

To learn more about credit freezes, read Credit Freeze FAQs and Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes. If you want a free credit freeze from Equifax you can call them at 800-349-9960 or visit them online at freeze.equifax.com.

If you’re looking for an alternative to a credit freeze, consider a fraud alert. Although a fraud alert won’t lock your credit like a freeze does, it will tell anyone who runs your credit that they should check with you before opening a new account. Fraud alerts are free but they end after 90 days, unless you remember to renew them. You may also want to sign up for Equifax’s free credit monitoring, which lets you know about changes to your credit file. But remember that the free credit monitoring doesn’t stop someone from opening accounts in your name. Also, it lasts only one year and the threat of identity theft relating to the breach is likely to last a lot longer than that.

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