On Thursday (September 7), Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the USA disclosed that it is investigating a data breach that may have impacted approximately 143 million Americans.
According to the company’s statement, the following information was accessed:
- Social Security Numbers
- Birth Dates
There were also some instances where credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers and other personally identifiable data was accessed.
If you’re reading this and shaking your head, you are not alone.
“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith. “We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations. We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.”
The funniest Equifax jokes will make it onto CNN tonight.
PS seriously, Joe's a good writer and is looking for experts' input. https://t.co/aH6Y52PuPA
— Martijn Grooten (@martijn_grooten) September 8, 2017
While Twitter may have chimed in with some humor on this, this is really serious and not a laughing matter at all. So you are probably asking yourself: What can I do? or Has my information been accessed?
For starters, you can visit this site set up by Equifax. If you prefer the phone, you can also give them a ring at 866-447-7559. The company will also be sending notices in the mail to users who have had personally identifiable data and credit card numbers exposed. The company is also offering some of their premium monitoring services for free. However, you may want to read the fine print before taking that offer.
Beware @Equifax shameful offer of 1-year monitoring. Signing up means agreeing to binding arbitration for their error. #equifaxbreach pic.twitter.com/Ux0CQGzWD3
— Tim Hillard (@timehillard) September 8, 2017
While this sounds like a lot of waiting, there are some things that you can do to proactively monitor your identity both online and off.
- Monitor banking accounts. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you should keep a regular eye on your banking and credit card accounts. If you see transactions that you do not recognize, contact your banking institute to dispute them.
- Enable SMS alerts. If you want to make sure that you’re up to the minute with your banking, you can set up SMS alerts when transactions are made. If you do not recognize one, you can contact the bank immediately vs. seeing this online a few days later. In this blog post, a colleague of mine discusses how his credit card was stolen and how a SMS on a fraudulent transaction helped him get his money back.
- Sign up for an identity theft monitoring service. There are countless services out there that can help secure your online and real world identity. This type of service could be useful if you are impacted or are afraid that you may have been.
- Be vigilant online. We talk about this a lot on this blog, but with all of this personal data being exposed, it is a safe bet that scammers will look to use this information to their benefit. When reading emails, social media posts or even getting SMS, make sure that the sender is who they say they are and keep an eye out for phishing emails. For tips on avoiding phishing, check out this report.