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Sep 7, 2017

What You Need to Know About the Equifax Breach

Equifax is one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies.  Earlier this year, computer hackers broke into their data storage and stole personal information on 145.5 million U.S. consumers.  That represents almost half of the country’s population of 323 million.  This kind of an intrusion is called a data breach.

What Happened?

Sometime between mid-May through July 2017, criminals accessed Equifax files containing names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers.  While they acted immediately to block the access, they didn’t make a public announcement until September 7, 2017. 

The most recent update published by Equifax was on October 2, 2017.  In that update, Equifax announced that Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, completed its forensic portion of their investigation.  The number of consumers impacted by the breach was raised by 2.5 million to 145.5 million.

How Could This Affect Me?

All of the consumer credit reporting agencies store enough information about you to make it possible for criminals to cause you a great deal of financial pain, including stealing your identity, opening new credit accounts in your name, and making fraudulent charges on your credit cards.  Another potential problem is that criminals may try to obtain a tax refund by submitting a tax return in your name to the IRS.

Since the opportunities for damage are so high, a data breach like the one experienced by Equifax is a serious matter.

Will Equifax Help?

Equifax has set up an informational website at EquifaxSecurity2017.com.  If you have a U.S. Social Security Number, here are the things Equifax offers you on that website.

1. Find out if you are affected.  You can visit the Am I Impacted? page and follow the instructions to determine if your information was included in the data that was accessed.

2. Enroll in a free credit monitoring service.  You can visit the What Can I Do? page on the website.  Even if you’re not on the Equifax list, they are offering anyone with a U.S. Social Security Number a one-year enrollment in a credit monitoring program called TrustedID Premier.  The enrollment period ends on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

What Should I Do?

Besides checking in with Equifax, you’ll need to check your credit reports, monitor your credit cards and bank accounts, and file your taxes early.

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