The Equifax hack will have repercussions for a very long time. Don’t get lulled into complacency just because you haven’t seen any problems yet. With more than half of all adults in America affected, chances are your confidential and financial information is in the hands of criminals.
Who is Equifax?
Equifax is the biggest of four credit-reporting agencies. You may not have dealt with Equifax directly, but they still have all your financial information, including your debt versus income ratio. They continually update this information.
Equifax collects information to document your creditworthiness. For example, if you go to buy a car and need financing, the auto dealer will look up your file on Equifax (or one of the other agencies) to determine if you’re eligible for a loan.
What Exactly Happened?
Equifax set up a web page for people to input information—But there was a flaw in it. Criminals were able to get into it the database that held the financial and other confidential information of more 143 million Americans (and 100,000 Canadians). The successful attack occurred sometime between May and the end of July 2017.
Unfortunately, Equifax didn’t let us know until now (September 2017) which doesn’t bode well for them.
Here’s the Scary Part.
If you were affected, what was stolen? Your name, Social Security number, date of birth and Driver’s License number—Everything a criminal needs to steal your identity, or open bank accounts in your name. And, if a person who steals your identity commits a crime, the authorities will come after you! (Plus, over one quarter million credit card numbers were stolen.)
What to Do?
Find Out If You Were Affected.
Go to: www.Equifaxsecurity2017.com and click the “Potential Impact” and then “Check Potential Impact” tabs. Equifax will ask you to enter your name and the last six of your SS. After a number of days, they’ll let you know if you were likely affected.
Sign Up for Their Free Protection.
Equifax will invite you to enroll in TrustedID Premier, a 3-bureau credit monitoring service (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) which is operated by Equifax. Regardless of whether your information may have been impacted, the company says it will provide everyone the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier until Nov. 21, 2017.
But is this enough? No. Your information won’t change! You’ll still have the same name, SS number, etc., forever! If you’re affected, this will be a lifelong issue.
Get Credit Protection for the Long Term.
Credit protection is a form of consumer protection that helps to preserve credit health for both individuals and businesses. Other than Equifax, there are three other credit-protection companies:
Freeze Your Credit.
A security freeze blocks creditors from viewing or pulling your credit file (unless you unfreeze it beforehand). With a freeze in place on your credit file, ID thieves won’t be able to apply for credit in your name. And because each credit inquiry has the potential to lower your credit score, the freeze also protects your score. The cost is about $15 per credit company ($60 for all four).
Note: In most states, you can freeze your credit file for free at each of the major credit bureaus if you also supply a copy of a police report, and in some cases an affidavit stating that you believe you’re likely to be the victim of identity theft. In many states, that police report can be filed and obtained online. The fee covers a freeze as long as you keep it in place.
Consider Opting Out.
You can Opt-Out of credit monitoring altogether. This way the credit-reporting companies won’t hold your data at all. (But this could be inconvenient for you when you go to apply for more credit.)
Contact Your Senators and Congressmen.
Make sure Equifax is held accountable for this. That’s why banks have regulations. These credit-reporting companies aren’t strictly regulated. Equifax should be forced to provide credit protection for a lifetime for those of us who had our data stolen.
It’s a scary time. Cybercriminals are everywhere. We all depend on the Internet today—But to do so safely, certain protections must be put in place. Unfortunately, Equifax didn’t think they could be affected. We all can. Protect yourself and your business.