Consumers have good reasons to be worried about a cyber-attack against Equifax, one of the largest credit monitoring and reporting companies in America, the Connecticut Better Business Bureau says.
The hackers captured the most sensitive personal and financial information on 143 million consumers — nearly half of the U.S. population — in the data breach.
“The scope of this data breach is startling,” says Better Business Bureau spokesman Howard Schwartz. Hackers obtained all of the details necessary for Equifax to rate the financial history and lending risk of individuals, he said.
“This information includes the basic building blocks of identity theft, such as consumers’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers," he said. "However, the credit monitoring companies also store crucial information about consumers’ loan details, credit cards, child support payments, employment history and much more.”
Equifax says the breach occurred between mid-May and July. It was discovered July 29.
The Federal Trade Commission advised consumers to take the following steps:
- Visit Equifax’s website at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if your information was exposed.
- Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. The site will tell you if you have been affected by this breach.
- Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until Nov. 21 to enroll.
Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:
- Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — 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.
- Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- 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.
- Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.
Click here for more information on dealing with the aftermath of a data breach from the BBB.
Click here for more information from the Federal Trade Commission.
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