Sep 19, 2017
Are you one of the 143 million customers in the Equifax data breach?
The Equifax data breach that potentially affects 143 million U.S. customers, nearly two-thirds of the adult U.S. population, could be quite the mess to clean up. The hackers had access to EFX, -14.23% data from May until July 2017, which included Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers, among other data.
The company detected the breach on July 29, it said, and hired a cybersecurity firm to determine what data the hackers accessed. But in the time it took for the company to alert customers who could be affected, hackers could have used their data for purposes including opening credit cards or other lines of credit. And any impact on their credit scores of erroneous activity could take years to repair.
Here’s how to know if you were affected and what to do next:
Check if your data was breached.Equifax created a website consumers can check if their data was breached, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. The company said it would offer a free year of service from its subsidiary, TrustedID, which monitors credit reports from Equifax as well as Experian EXPN, -1.38% and TransUnion TRU, -4.66% , as well as offering identity theft insurance and internet scanning for social security numbers. Equifax will also send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or personal information were impacted. (The company did not immediately reply to a request for comment.)
There have already been some glitches, however. Many consumers weren’t able to find out immediately if they were affected. Instead, once they entered their information into Equifax’s security website, they were told they were signed up for free credit-monitoring services for Equifax, and they had to come back to the site later to find out if they were affected or not.
Freeze your credit reports! Many credit bureau protections don’t detect nontraditional accounts fraudsters might try to open, such as payday loans or demand deposit accounts, said Al Pascual, a senior vice president and research director at the security firm Javelin. Customers should immediately freeze their accounts at all three credit bureaus, said Adam Levin, a consumer advocate and chairman of security firm CyberScout. This restricts access to your credit report, which helps prevent other credit card companies accessing it to open up new accounts.