What the Equifax Breach Means for Consumers and How to Take Action

The Federal Trade Commission recently reached a settlement with Equifax over a data breach that has impacted around 147 million Americans. The popular credit monitoring agency admitted to a leak that included social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and credit card information. Nearly half of all adults in the United States have been affected and are therefore eligible to file a claim in the settlement to receive compensation from Equifax.

What does the Equifax breach mean for you?

The first thing you should do is check to see if your information has been impacted by this breach. On the official Equifax Data Breach Settlement website, you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number to see if your data was part of the breach. Make sure you are using the official, government approved website before entering any personal information. If you determine that your data was indeed breached, you have a few things to consider. The settlement includes three options for compensation:

– A one-time payment of up to $125

– 10 years of free credit monitoring services

– A one-time payment of up to $20,000 if you can prove you spent time or money on identity theft services due to the data breach

In order to receive any of the above compensations, you must fill out the application on the website by January 22, 2020. You can also choose to opt out of the settlement. In order to officially opt out, you must formally exclude yourself by November 19 of this year.

It is important to consider how this breach could impact you before you decide on a settlement option. Despite the low payout amount, consumers should not take this data breach lightly. Once your private, identifying information has been leaked, it can spread indefinitely. Data hackers can sell and re-sell your information forever. If your information is actively being used, $125 is not even close to enough money to cover the cost it will take to repair and protect your finances. Equifax has allotted $425 million for financial compensation—meaning actual, per person payments will likely be much less than the $125 listed. Early applicants will have a better chance of getting the full amount.

Because of this, financial advisors are suggesting that consumers opt for the free credit monitoring or exclude themselves from the settlement all together. Credit monitoring and identity theft services could serve you much better than $125 in the unfortunate event that your information is being sold on the dark web. Opting out of the settlement would allow you to sue Equifax as an individual, giving you more legal power to recuperate your financial losses in the event of a significant identity theft situation. Additionally, if your information has been seriously compromised and you have experienced significant financial loss due to identity theft, it is important to speak with a NJ lawyer who has experience with identity theft.

The one thing you can and should do right away in response to the Equifax data breach is to start practicing better cyber hygiene. Hackers look for more than just social security numbers and credit card information. Oversharing other personal information can be just as costly online. To protect yourself from identity theft online, these three steps can help keep your information secure:

1. Social Media: Make sure all of your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) are private so the only people who can see your information are those you choose to connect with. Even if your account is private, carefully consider what you share. Hackers can use your hometown, your birthday, your employment history, and other pieces of information commonly shared on social media platforms to acquire your private data.

2. Data Check: Google your name and city and see what pops up. If your full name, address, e-mail, or other personal information appears, this should make you wary about sharing additional information online. The more free information a hacker has access to, the easier it is for them to assume your identity to gather critical data about you, such as your social security or credit card number(s.)

3. Passwords: Get into the habit of changing all of your online passwords regularly and never use the same password twice. If a hacker is able to breach one account, they will try the same password over and over again. This can be disastrous for those who use the same password repeatedly.

With the global transition to online platforms, the way we protect our personal information and financial data has to change. Unfortunately, events like the Equifax data breach are becoming more and more common. Learning how to protect yourself and your personal information from hackers could save you a lot of time, money, and emotional distress. Minimizing the amount of personal information available online can be your first defense against cyber hackers.

 

 

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Equifax Data Breach 2017: Were You Affected?

equifax breach

Unless you have zero credit history and no report exists on file for you with any of the credit reporting bureaus, you may have been affected by a recent security breach at Equifax.

Up to 150 million people (in the US alone) had their private, personal, identifying information exposed and potentially misused. This breach in security occurred only with Equifax. Neither of the other two credit reporting agencies, Trans Union or Experian, were affected.

What happened during the Equifax breach?

Between the months of May-July 2017, hackers were able to bypass some of the cyber-security that was in place at that time at Equifax. They gained access to millions of pieces of personal information, including:

  • Full names and aliases
  • Dates of birth
  • Social Security numbers
  • Current and past addresses
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Credit card information

Even if you haven’t noticed any strange charges popping up on any of your credit cards, it’s important that you take action if you haven’t already done so. If any of your identifying information was accessed, the first step to righting the wrong is knowledge.

How can I find out if my information was accessed?

Although the general public opinion of Equifax dropped as soon as news of the security breach hit the airwaves, they deserve kudos for initiating a plan of action for those who may have been affected. They created a program called TrustedID Premier that gives consumers one year of free credit monitoring.

Visit http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. There, you’ll be able to read details about the security breach; you’ll also be able to enroll in the credit protection and monitoring program.

With two clicks, you’ll learn if your personal information was accessed, or “potentially impacted.” From there, you should move forward and initiate your enrollment in the credit monitoring program. Again, you’ll be given an easy prompt to “Enroll Now,” after you’ve determined if your information may have been affected.

How can I feel safe with a company that experienced such a substantial breach?

While you do have to give your name, address and part of your social security number in order to verify your identity, you can feel secure as long as you are using a secure computer as well as an encrypted network.

Is there anything else I can do to protect my personal information?

Aside from enrolling in the TrustedID Premier program, you should carefully read through your credit reports in their entirety. Go beyond checking your Equifax report; order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. You can request all three reports at one convenient site: http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

Other potential steps to protecting your private and sensitive data include:

  • Freezing your credit
  • Placing a fraud alert on your credit 
  • Preventing tax identity theft – A lesser known form of identity theft, tax identity theft, can occur if your social security number was stolen. File your 2017 taxes as soon as possible so that no one else can fraudulently claim your tax refund.
  • Continue to carefully monitor all of your bank accounts and credit cards and be on the lookout for any suspicious charges.

If your personal information was accessed and you discover false information on your credit report or unrecognized charges on a credit card, contact a NJ credit repair attorney immediately to protect your financial reputation from incurring any further damage.

 

Image: “Broken Lock” by Chad Cooper – licensed under CC 2.0