This article was updated Sept. 11 to reflect a recent statement from Equifax clarifying that
“enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not waive any rights to take legal action.” Equifax reportedly faces at least 23 proposed class-action lawsuits.
Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, announced yesterday that it’s been exposed to a major data breach, giving Americans one more reason to order that second of glass of wine today.
The data breach exposed some pretty sensitive info for 143 million U.S. consumers, including names, Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses. Equifax also said that credit card numbers of 209,000 U.S. customers were exposed, along with personal info from credit dispute documents of approximately 182,000 people.
As a result, Equifax says it’s offering free credit monitoring to all U.S. consumers for one year and will notify consumers through the mail if their credit card numbers or dispute documents were exposed.
Not trying to wait for that snail mail to fill you in on your financial fate? Me neither.
There’s a way you can check to see if your personal info was potentially impacted by the data breach, STAT. I know, it’s Friday and you have, like, a million other things you’d rather do than worry about this, but it’s important. Equifax set up a special website devoted to informing consumers about this breach, and all you have to do is enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number to see if your personal info was potentially impacted.
Equifax is also offering consumers one free year of its TrustedID Premier service, which consists of credit monitoring at all three major credit bureaus, along with other precautions to keep your sensitive info safe. Which, in the wake of this data breach, isn’t a bad idea.
Bankrate recommends taking things a bit further to make sure you’re really protected, suggesting consumers enact a credit freeze on all credit reports at the three major reporting agencies. Under the freeze, your credit report won’t be given out to potential new creditors, so you know you’re protected. Don’t worry: If you want to buy a house or take out another loan (which both often require credit reports), you can temporarily remove the freeze for a quick fix.
If you’re skimming through this article thinking there’s absolutely no way you were affected, think again.
The scary thing about the Equifax breach is that you may not even know Equifax has your info. Credit card companies, banks, credit unions, retailers and auto and mortgage lenders all report details of your credit activity to credit reporting agencies, like Equifax. These credit reporting agencies also purchase public records. Fun times.
You can (and should) read more about this incident and get all your questions answered ASAP. Stay on top of this hack by monitoring all your credit and bank statements v. closely, check your credit report at all three credit bureaus, and don’t give out personal info over the phone or email.