The Equifax data breach and what you need to know.
Have you ever heard of Equifax? If you haven’t let me tell you a little more. Equifax is the largest of the three main credit bureaus in the US. It started in 1898 and as a credit bureau, their business is you. More specifically your data.
Now credit bureaus do serve a specific purpose in our credit system today. That is to provide creditors or lenders with data on you. This normally takes the form of a credit report. This goes hand in hand with a credit score. Both FICO and Vantage scores take information found on your credit report in order to tell lenders how “risky” of a borrower you are.
Ok, so we got that out of the way. Back to Equifax. Equifax (and the other two main bureaus) gather as much private data as they can and store it in databases. This information includes social security numbers, driver’s licenses numbers, all current and previous addresses, full names, phone numbers, and credit card numbers. It’s basically an ID Thief’s paradise.
So What happened with Equifax and this “data breach?” Well, we have all heard over the years of big box store credit card information breaches. Target had one back in 2013 that affected an estimated 40 million consumers. They ended up paying back tens of millions to banks in class action lawsuits.
Data breaches aren’t new. What makes this one different?
Let’s start with the number of consumers that have been affected. Over 143 million consumers have been compromised. As of 2016, the population of the United States was 323 million people. That is around 44% of the U.S. Population.
So what information was taken?
According to the FTC “The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.”
If you’re lucky all they got was your name, social security number, birth date, and addresses. In a moment we will go over how to find out if you were affected and what steps to take to make sure you protect yourself.
You might be thinking that since we trust Equifax (or at least let them) to harvest this much data on us that when an attack like this happens they would tell the public. The answer is no they wouldn’t. Equifax stated that the breach lasted from mid-May through July when it was finally discovered on July 29 2017. The public was notified in the first week of September of 2017.
To make matters even worse three top level executives were found to have sold millions of dollars in stock before making a public statement about the breach. These stock sales were not disclosed in the regular trading plan for Equifax. NPR reported that “Regulatory filings show the three Equifax executives — Chief Financial Officer John Gamble, U.S. Information Solutions President Joseph Loughran and Workforce Solutions President Rodolfo Ploder — completed stock sales on Aug. 1 and 2.”
How Do I Know If I Have Been Compromised?
Equifax has created a website specifically for this situation. If you go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com you will be asked for your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number. If you don’t feel comfortable with giving an organization that doesn’t effectively protect your information in the first place I certainly don’t blame you. It is safe to assume that you HAVE been affected and that you should take precautionary measures.
What Steps Should I Take?
The first thing you should do is place a fraud alert on your credit. You can do this by contacting one of the credit bureaus and simply requesting one. I would suggest going with Transunion or Experian because Equifax’s website and call centers are bogged down with this situation.
You can initiate one with Experian from their website https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html or by sending a letter requesting one. They are free and last for 90 days. While you only need to request it from one bureau because they send it to the others automatically it doesn’t hurt to confirm with the others.
A Fraud Alert prevents a creditor or lender from extending credit in your name without first contacting you directly.
You can also place a security freeze which prevents creditors from pulling your credit reports unless you unfreeze your reports. This is also done with each of the credit bureaus. If you are looking to get credit in the near future this might causes issues.
Pull your credit reports. You can pull all three credit reports for free from www.annualcreditreport.com. It is important to review the information on the reports to ensure that you recognize all the accounts and information. (We will do another post on what to do if you don’t recognize something). If you are a member you can access the members only forum and ask questions for our credit experts to answer!
There is another company called Identity IQ (https://www.identityiq.com/). Both services are around $29/month.
We will be discussing this more in the free FB Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/crcreditbuilders/ Request to join today!
Want access to The Members Only Forum and our credit experts? Claim you membership here: http://membership.creditrepairpublishing.com/
Your credit is one of the most important financial aspects of your life. In fact, most of our financial system is built on credit. Make sure you are treating it right and protecting it so that you can provide for yourself and your family.
We love to hear how our family is doing! Please go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/crcreditbuilders/ and share how good credit has changed your life or ask questions about how to build good credit for your future!