Equifax has had its second major data breach in four years. The Atlanta-based company announced that records from about 143 million consumers were compromised in a security breach that occurred from mid-May through July 2017.
The company has said the information accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, some driver’s license numbers. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. consumers and 182,000 dispute documents with personal identifying information was accessed.
Equifax stock has tumbled as investors have cashed out including three top ranking company executives who said they had no prior knowledge of the breach.
Consumers can go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine if they have been impacted by the breach. Enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number before clicking on the Check Potential Impact tab. You may get information about whether your data is possibly involved. In either case, you will be given a date (beginning Sept. 11) for the option to enroll in the company’s TrustedID Premier program.
However, some industry experts expressed concern that engaging the program could limit your rights to sue or participate in a class action lawsuit. As a result, on Sept. 8, Equifax added an opt-out option. Consumers who sign up for the service can opt out of the binding arbitration clause by notifying the company in writing within 30 days.
To be clear, the service offered by Equifax will not fix problems to your credit as a result of the breach, it will only offer monitoring.
Sign up for 24/7 credit monitoring This way, you’ll find out immediately if someone tries to open an account in your name. WalletHub, for example, offers free 24/7 monitoring of your TransUnion credit report.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication Equifax was hacked, but your cell phone wasn’t. So use it as another layer of protection when logging into your email account and financial websites.
A Freeze Is Better Than an Alert It probably isn’t necessary in this case, but if you really want to protect yourself from fraudulent borrowing, freeze your three major credit reports (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). This will prevent anyone but you from accessing them, thus making it impossible to take out a loan or line of credit. A fraud alert, in contrast, doesn’t actually do much.
Suppress Fraudulent Info While you can dispute run-of-the-mill credit report inaccuracies, it’s best to use a process called suppression/ blocking to get rid of negative info resulting from identity theft. In short, this makes it so the records in question can’t make reappearance after they’re initially removed.
Never Respond to Unsolicited Requests for Information Don’t be surprised if you see an uptick in unsolicited calls and emails requesting personal information. Just remember: Never answer if you didn’t ask to be contacted.