The Equifax breach has affected some 143 million American consumers as well as many individuals from the UK and Canada. Hackers infiltrated the Equifax system from mid-May through July of this year. The breach resulted in the theft of hundreds of millions names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even driver’s license numbers. Approximately 209,000 credit card numbers were stolen in addition to dispute documents, giving away personal identifying data for roughly 182,000 people.
If you attempted calling or visiting the Equifax verification site, chances are you either received inaccurate/not updated information or waited on hold for a very long period of time only to hang up with more questions.
There is no data breach law that would require companies to inform consumers of potential leaks in a specific time frame. Given the facts and the 30 days that have lapsed before public notification, Security experts recommend vigilance in assuming that your data was in fact stolen, by following a few cautionary measures; and to act fast.
Freeze Your Credit with all of the four credit bureaus. The average cost to freeze your credit is about $10 per agency. Freezing your credit can prevent criminals from obtaining your credit information, taking out a new credit card in your name or worse.
Note: Removing a credit freeze can take up to three business days. Unfreeze your credit only if you need to take out a loan, open a line of credit or you are making a large purchase such as a new car, a home mortgage or anything that would require a credit check prior to purchase.
Pull Your Credit Report:
Immediately pull a credit report and then repeat four months later. Be on the alert for anything suspicious. Wait another four months and pull your credit report for a third time.
Be Extra Suspicious:
Be hypervigilant in spotting social engineering scams.
- Ignore social media ads that offer one-click credit fraud solutions or make reference to the recent breach.
- Similar attempts may come by way of emails, online games or through physical mail sent to the home.
- Treat all phone calls and texts from unknown numbers as potential/likely scams. Spoofing attempts, can often mirror a familiar number, use local area codes or a phone number that looks close to identical to your own.
Set Up Your Online Social Security Account:
If you haven’t already done so, Set Up a Social Security account via SSA.gov/Myaccount to keep track of funds for the future. This is a safe practice to protect your Social Security and avoid attempts at stealing your future payments. NOTE: Set this up before you freeze your credit, as the government will need to confirm your identity.
There are a number of safe practices that help protect you from threats year round.
- 2-factor Authentication: Wherever available, use Two-Factor Authentication to protect account logins. If two-factor is not available, use original passwords, unique to every account (do not duplicate)
- Banking Vigilance: Closely monitor your bank accounts and credit cards for larger purchases and very small transactions.
- Phone Line PIN: Protect yourself from cyber criminals adding a phone to your current bill, by setting up a PIN with providers.
- File taxes early: Tax return fraud is a definite possibility with the recent breach. By filing your taxes as soon as possible, you lessen the risk of someone cashing in on your return.