Equifax has suffered one of the largest data breaches in US history, affecting an estimated 143 million people. According to a statement by Equifax, hackers managed to exploit a vulnerability in the company's website, allowing them to gain access to personal information – including names, birth dates, social security numbers, and addresses – for about two months. Additionally, over 200,000 credit card numbers were compromised. The company has been widely criticized for its handling of the breach, due in no small part to its vagueness in providing solid information to consumers concerned that their data had been compromised. This of course wasn't made any better when word got out that three top executives sold millions worth of stock days before the announcement!
Here are some steps you can take to protect your identity and sensitive data:
1) TrustedID Premier – as ironic and unsettling as it may seem, Equifax is offering a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection via their TrustedID Premier program. It offers an Equifax credit report, Equifax credit report lock, monitors activity of your Social Security number as well as up to $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance.
2) Watch your accounts – make sure to monitor your bank statements for any suspicious activity.
3) Freeze your credit report – this is a great way to prevent any unwanted activity – especially if you aren't planning on applying for a new credit line any time soon – as you will be provided a PIN upon freezing your credit, and anyone wanting to unfreeze it will need to provide that PIN.
4. Change your Equifax password – this is a bit of a no-brainer, but of course the username and password you use for Equifax could easily have been compromised, so you'll need to change it on their website. Beyond that, if you did have a login on the Equifax site, I would go ahead and change the password for every other website where you use that same password.
5. Be vigilant during tax season – the bad guys may try to use your stolen social security number to file fraudulent tax returns or get refunds
6. Watch out for scams – be cautious if you receive any suspicious or unrecognized phone calls, text messages, or email saying you must pay your taxes or debt immediately, even if they provide your personal info!
If you need more information or support around this please let me know and I'd be happy to help.