The credit reporting agency Equifax had a massive data breach that occurred in mid-May, one of the largest hacks ever according to some cybersecurity experts. The breach went on through July until the company learned of it on July 29th . At the time, they were not aware of the scope of the hack, or how many people were affected. As it turns out, up to 143 million people may have had their personal information exposed: names, birthdays, addresses, Social Security Numbers, drivers license numbers, and even credit card numbers were leaked, making those affected hugely susceptible to identity theft. The company is blaming their software for the hack
The effect is pretty disheartening, considering such a large company that holds some of the most important information could allow the breach to happen, let alone happen for almost 3 months. As far as the risks associated with potentially having your information leaked, identity thieves can spend on credit cards, take out loans in your name, and take out other lines of credit under your name that make you liable for massive debt. Criminals could also assume control of your existing accounts to steal your money if they can get access to pin codes and passwords. It’s up to each person to keep an eye on their credit to ensure they aren’t a victim of identity theft, but there are other steps you can take to see if you are one of the 143 million affected and how to protect yourself. We advise everyone to act now and determine if they are at risk; because Social Security Numbers don’t expire, your information could be at risk to be stolen now or 10 years down the line.
To see if you were potentially affected by the leak, you can go to https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html and type in your last name and the last 6 digits of your Social Security Number. It will give you an immediate answer whether you may or may not have potentionally had your information exposed. Your next best bet, regardless if you were possibly affected, would be to contact your primary bank and look into identity fraud protection programs. Because of the high demand right now, they may be running specials and discounting new sign-ups. If you do not plan on purchasing a house or car, and/or do not plan on opening up any new credit cards, you can also get a credit freeze. A credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report, so credit, loans, and other services in your name will not be approved without your consent. Originally, there would be a fee charged for placing a credit fee but from now until November 21st, Equifax is allowing free credit freezes. Go to https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp to register. You can also lift the freeze at any time to apply for new lines of credit. And to ensure there isn’t any suspicious activity going on in your accounts, keep an eye on your credit report; if there is anything you do not recognize, take action quickly.
As always, you can call our office for more information and assistance in dealing with this crisis at 216-313-9999.