On Thursday, credit reporting agency Equifax announced that a cyber security attack on their systems occurred. The company says that the data breach exposed customers’ personal information, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and even driver’s license numbers. They also got a hold of thousands of credit card numbers.
If you are one of the 143 million people affected by this data breach, here’s what you need to know to protect your identity from thieves.
Equifax is one of three major credit bureaus. Whenever you take out a loan, open a new credit card or become delinquent on a bill, your creditors and banks send the information to the reporting agencies. That information is what determines your credit report and credit score.
However, a credit report is more than a list of debt. Equifax and the other agencies store each users’ personal information. When hackers broke into their system between May and July, they were able to access that data.
It’s important to know that only your Equifax report and information was part of the data breach. The other two credit bureaus — Experian and TransUnion — were not affected.
If you signed up for a CreditSoup account to check your credit score or open up a new credit card, your personal information is safe. The site pulls your information from TransUnion, not Equifax, so your account is secure.
With access to your name, address, driver’s license and Social Security number, there can be serious ramifications:
1. Credit card fraud: Thieves can open new accounts in your name and rack up charges on the card, which will show up on your credit report.
2. Other loans: The criminals can use your information to take out loans, such as a car loan or personal loan, in your name.
3. Tax fraud: Because the thieves have so much of your information, they can file a tax return under your name and claim your tax refund.
4. Credit score damage: Those who stole your information are not going to make payments on the accounts they open. The new accounts will all be declared delinquent, and your credit report could be ruined.
What you can do
Before doing anything else, check if you are one of the people affected by the data breach. Equifax will be sending notifications to impacted individuals through direct mail. However, you don’t have to wait to receive a letter to find out if your information was compromised.
Equifax has set up a separate website where you can find out if you’re affected. Just visit www.equixfaxsecurity2017.com and click on “Potential Impact.”
The site will prompt you to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Once you submit your information, Equifax will determine if you’re affected or not. The site will give you an immediate response.
If you’d prefer to speak to a representative, you can also call 866-447-7559 between 7 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. ET.
If your information was impacted, Equifax will encourage you to sign up for TrustedID Premier, a credit file monitoring and identity theft protection service. Equifax will cover the cost of TrustedID Premier for one year, so it’s free for you to use. If you want to sign up — and it’s highly recommended that you do — just visit Equifax’s security site and click on “Enroll.”
You will be given an enrollment date where you can sign up for monitoring. You can enroll until November 21, 2017.
Afterward, make sure you contact your credit card companies to notify them of the breach and change your passwords for any financial institution you use.
Managing a data breach
Receiving a notification that your information has been hacked is terrifying. But it’s important to take action as soon as possible to reduce the effect the breach will have on you. By signing up for the free credit monitoring service and keeping an eye on your accounts, you can prevent your identity from thieves.
Editorial Disclaimer: Information in these articles is brought to you by CreditSoup. Banks, issuers, and credit card companies mentioned in the articles do not endorse or guarantee, and are not responsible for, the contents of the articles. The information is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted; however, all credit card information is presented without warranty. Please check the issuer’s website for the most current information.