I hate to trouble you with bad news, but you need to be aware of this.
Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, has revealed that an estimated 143 million U.S. customers may be affected by a data breach carried out by criminal hackers. It includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Additionally, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and dispute documents with personal information for approximately 182,000 consumers may have been accessed.
Many thanks to Kim Komando who has written an excellent article which you can read here for all the details. My simple and easy version for you is…
Equifax is sending direct mail alerts to customers whose information was included in the data breach. Keep an eye out for the notice in your mailbox.
The company has created a website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers check if any of their information has been affected. However, the tool requires you to provide your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number to initiate the check. I question if it is a good idea to give information to a company that just experienced the largest credit bureau data breach in history.
You can call Equifax’s dedicated customer care number 866-447-7559 to check but, judging by the magnitude of the breach, there will probably be long wait times. Let me know if you try that and how it goes so I can let others know.
If you use the website tool and are found to have been affected by the breach, you will be offered a chance to use Equifax’s own credit monitoring program, TrustedID Premier, free of charge for one year. However, you will have to agree to its Terms of Service and buried in the fine print is this a specific arbitration clause that waives your ability to participate in a class action lawsuit against Equifax.
Considering the extent of the stolen information, I doubt that one year of free credit monitoring is enough. With Social Security numbers involved, the threat of identity theft for those affected will assuredly be lifelong.
Kim suggests that you put a credit freeze on your accounts and she provides excellent instructions on how to do that here.
Other Important Steps To Take If You Are Affected
Scammers use the information they’ve stolen to target victims with other scams. If your data was compromised, please take extra caution and watch out for the following schemes:
Keep an eye on your bank accounts – You should already be checking your bank accounts online or your paper statements for suspicious activity. It’s even more critical now. If you see anything that seems strange, report it immediately.
Beware of phishing scams – Scammers will try and piggyback on data breaches like this. They will create phishing emails, pretending to be from the affected company, hoping to get victims to click on malicious links that could lead to more problems. They are tricky so call me if you suspect anything.
I hope you are not affected by this. (If you are, let me know.)
As always, if you have any questions or if you suspect a scam, feel free to call me and leave a message. I will get back to you just as soon as I can.
In any case, I hope you enjoy your day,