Equifax has reported a data breach and it is already called the worst personal data leak in history. Not without a reason.
With 143 million people affected, 44% of U.S. adult population is at risk. In fact, experts say that it’s safer to assume that you were affected and take security measures right away.
What has happened so far?
- Mid-May – July. The breach occurred. It potentially exposes such personal information as social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and other sensitive data.
- 29 July. The security breach was discovered by the company.
- 1-3 August. At least three top executives sold part of their stock of the company. Equifax claims that they were not informed about the breach.
- 7 September. The breach was announced to the public. Equifax has published a statement offering its free identity protection program for the people affected. Also, the company has created a website that is supposed to give exact response for each person who was potentially at risk. Reports show that the website provides confusing information that doesn’t exactly inform the users if their data was exposed.
- 8 September. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Equifax. It claims that the company neglected to protect personal data of the customers due to trying to save costs.
The chairman and CEO of the company issued a statement describing the event:
Similarly, a grave situation has happened in 2014, with a data breach in JPMorgan Chase & Co bank. This attack was affecting over 83 million accounts: 76 million households and 7 million small businesses.
The key risk regarding similar incidents awaits in the future: it might take months or even years before hackers decide to use the data collected.
What should be the next steps?
- Set up a fraud alert. This 90-day alert ensures that anytime someone tries to use your credentials, the credit reporting company gets notified and ensures additional security measurements. The fraud alert is free of charge and requires you to show a proof of identity. If one of the 3 main credit reporting companies (The TransUnion, Experian or Equifax) are informed, they will share this knowledge with the others. Contact them now: TransUnion (1-800-680-7289),
Experian (1-888-397-3742), Equifax (1-888-766-0008).
- Request a freeze. Another security measure that ensures that no new accounts were opened in your name. It does not affect your credit score or prevent you from seeing your annual credit report, opening a new account or applying for a new job. After you place a freeze request, the credit reporting company will send you a letter with a PIN number or a password. You will need to use it when you want to lift the freeze. Call one of the 3 credit reporting companies (contact numbers listed above). This service might cost between $5 and $10, depending on your location.
- Check your status. Visit annualcreditreport.com and see if information about your score is correct. If you find inaccurate information, inform one of the credit recording companies in writing. Read more about the exact steps here. You can get the report once a year for free.
- File your taxes early. Social security number, address, and date of birth can be used to file a false tax report. This might be done in order to gain access to your tax refunds. Even though the deadline is 17 April 2018, usually you can start filling in the forms as early as the second half of January.
- Monitor for unusual behavior. Signing up for one of the credit monitoring services is a must, just as regularly checking your current credit score, credit card or bank statements. It’s important to be educated, diligent about your credit and understands what’s happening to your credit scores and accounts. One of the suggestions here would be to enable SMS/email alerts for transfers and withdraws from your accounts.
This will definitely reduce the risks but for sure won’t make you 100% confident. Risks related to privacy are varied, and most of the times, the best practice is to stay alert and take precautions.
If you care about security and privacy online, remember that prevention goes a long way:
- Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for all your accounts, including email and social media.
- Use a password manager. And never use the same password for more than one service.
- Make sure that all your software is updated. Even if the security bug is patched, it doesn’t work until the system is updated.
- Use VPN. While connecting to a public network, always use VPN to redirect your traffic and keep your privacy.
Take a look at our ultimate guide of not getting hacked for more advice.
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