Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the United States, reported a major data breach on September 7, 2017. They estimate that 143 million American consumers may have had sensitive personal information exposed.
The Federal Trade Commission reports that the breach lasted from mid-May through July of this year. The hackers accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and some driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people, and dispute documents with personal information for about 182,000 other people.
How can each consumer take steps to protect your information from being misused?
- Equifax has set up a dedicated website for the breach: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com
- 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. Please be aware that there are some restrictions that apply with this enrollment, be sure to read the conditions carefully.
- You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends consumers take these other steps 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.
- Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.
It’s possible that the Equifax breach may trigger “phishing” schemes wherein fraudsters will pose as Equifax and attempt to get information from vulnerable consumers. Please be alert for the following things:
- Phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised
- Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information
- Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union
- Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen
Remember, neither 1st Security Bank nor Equifax will ever ask for sensitive information such as account numbers, PINs, or your Social Security number via phone or email.