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As you no doubt already know, Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies, reported a massive data breach last week. Here are the facts as we know them today.
- The breach lasted from mid-May through July.
- The hackers accessed or stole the data of 143 Million Americans with an Equifax credit report.
- The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.
- They stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people.
- They stole dispute documents with personally identifying information (PII) for about 182,000 people.
This is likely the most severe breach of personally identifiable information (PII) to date. Nearly every American of working age has been/will be personally affected by this.
IMPORTANT: Any link we provide below is given in its entirety so you can be sure it is a legitimate link.
After extensive review of the most current information available about the breach, ImageQuest recommends you take the following steps:
1. Freeze your credit with all three reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This is not something to be undertaken lightly, however, given the severe and very real threat of identity compromise, we strongly feel this is the best course of action. This can cause you additional headaches, however we still feel this is the best and safest course for most people.
More on credit freeze from the FTC: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs
Credit freezes are not federally regulated. This link will take you to a site that explains the laws and potential fees by state. http://www.elitepersonalfinance.com/credit-freeze-laws
Here’s where you can go to sign up for a freeze at each of the three major credit bureaus:
Equifax – https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze
Or call 1-800-349-9960
Experian – https://www.experian.com/freeze
Or call 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion – https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze
Or call 1-888-909-8872
You will need to be patient. All three companies’ systems and switchboards are overloaded. It may take you several attempts.
2. Check your credit reports. If you do not already have a service to pull and review your reports, use this free service and pull all three today. https://www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you see activity that you don’t recognize, visit https://identitytheft.gov to find out what to do.
Check them periodically. Even if it costs you a few dollars, it is worth checking at least quarterly.
3. Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize. If you find them, report them to the card issuer or your bank immediately. There are consumer protections in place to help you.
4. Beware of phishing email scams. Other hackers will capitalize on the panic surrounding this event and will target all of us with emails specific to this event. We have already seen fake emails claiming to come from Equifax with information about the breach.
Be hyper-vigilant about emails. Don’t blindly click unrecognized links or download attachments in emails. When in doubt – DELETE.
5. File your taxes early next year. Tax identity theft is already a major issue in this country. The FTC predicts this will increase sharply next year due in part to this breach.
6. We don’t have a definite opinion on credit monitoring services. Equifax is offering their service free for all affected people. There is certainly no harm in accepting that offer. The rumors that doing so waives your rights to any future action against Equifax are not accurate.
7. Do not panic. There is absolutely no reason to create added stress over something that has already happened. You can’t change it. Use that energy to systematically address the situation by following the steps above.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to remind you that at ImageQuest, information security is paramount. That is your security as well as ours. If you ever have questions about our security processes and procedures, or the security technologies we employ internally or at your organization, please contact us directly.
This is the link to the Equifax site where they provide the most current information about the breach and their remediation steps. https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/