Equifax, one of the big three U.S. credit bureaus, announced on Thursday, September 7, 2017, that a data breach at the company may have exposed 143 million American consumers’ sensitive personal information. Although Equifax states they found no evidence of unauthorized activity on its core consumer credit reporting database, other information was lost.
How does the Equifax data breach effect you?
According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May 2017 through July 2017. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. This is the information fraudsters would need to commit identity theft.
In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed. As part of its investigation of this application vulnerability, Equifax also identified unauthorized access to limited personal information for certain UK and Canadian residents. Equifax will work with the UK and Canadian regulators to determine appropriate next steps. The company has found no evidence that personal information for consumers in any other country has been impacted.
The problem with so much personal information in the hands of the bad guys, is it highly likely spear phishing attacks can be expected, as well as a variety of other related crimes like full-on identity theft on a much larger scale. These records are first going to be sold on the dark web to organized crime networks for premium prices and for immediate exploitation. We have not experienced actual Equifax phishing attacks at this point, yet you can expect them in the coming days and weeks because the bad guys are going to take their most efficient way to leverage this data.
With 143 million credit records stolen you have to assume that the bad guys have highly personal information they can utilize to trick you and anyone with a credit report is at risk.
What to Watch Out For:
- Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information
- Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union
- Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen
What you can do to prevent identity theft?
- To find out if your information was exposed, go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on the “Potential Impact” tab, and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach. Although this is being recommended by Equifax, I would use great caution in doing so.
- Equifax has provided a link where consumers can determine if their personal information is part of the breach, and sign up for free credit monitoring. However, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is among political leaders pointing out that consumers who accept the credit monitoring sign away their rights to be part of a class action suit if they incur any damages.
- Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Freeze your credit files at the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Remember that generally it is not possible to sign up for credit monitoring services after a freeze is in place. Advice for how to file a freeze is available here on a state-by-state basis: http://consumersunion.org/research/security-freeze/
- Monitor your existing Debit Card, Credit Card, Credit Union accounts and other bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- Research companies providing credit monitoring services and consider signing up for the services. Prices vary as well as the scope of the service provided.
- If you suspect suspicious activity on your accounts at the EEFCU contact us immediately. Don’t second guess if the activity is valid but give us a call so we can help you determine the authenticity of your account activity.
- If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
- Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach. You can also call the center’s toll free number (888-400-5530) for advice on how to resolve identify-theft issues. All of the center’s services are free.
Additional steps you should take in monitoring your account:
- Be vigilant in monitoring your EEFCU account. Report any unauthorized or suspicious transactions to us as soon as you possibly can. Check for activity multiple times per day. If you don’t already use online banking services and/or account alert services – sign up today!
- Change your passwords if you notice suspicious activity.
- Use the Account Alert tool that is part of our Online Banking program.
Link to the FTC’s release on the Equifax breach: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do
Sources: Northwest Credit Union Association; KnowBe4, Inc