Last week, Equifax said hackers gained access to company data in a cybersecurity incident that could potentially affect 143 million people. The information accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. Additionally, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 people and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed.
According to Equifax, the unauthorized access occurred mid-May through July 2017. Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. A dedicated call center is also available at 866-447-7559.
As a result of the hack, consumers are vulnerable to fraud by cyber criminals and other scam artists.
Here are some things to watch for:
• Phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised
• Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information
• Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union
• Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen. Thieves may be able to open new credit card or bank accounts in your name with the information that was hacked via Equifax.
Here are additional steps to take to prevent identity theft:
• Sign up for credit monitoring. While Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring to all consumers (not just those affected by the breach), you may also have access through other relationships, such as your banking institution, an appropriate membership level with the Automobile Club of Southern California, or other industry professional organizations.
• Set up credit freeze to lock your credit files so when a thief uses your Social Security number to apply for credit in your name, lenders will be unable to retrieve the report without your direct intervention because of the freeze. Generally, it is not possible to sign up for credit monitoring services after a freeze is in place. California law concerning filing a credit freeze is available here.
• Sign up for free credit reports via the free annualcreditreport.com. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report every year from all three major reporting agencies. Alternate these over the year and check once every four months.
• Set up fraud alerts with the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This will alert you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.
• If you believe you may have been the victim of identity theft, here is a site where you can learn more about how to protect yourself: www.idtheftcenter.org. You can also call the center’s toll-free number (888-400-5530) for advice on how to resolve identify-theft issues. All of the center’s services are free.