Equifax Data Breach – Are you at Risk?
One of the largest credit reporting companies in the United States, Equifax, recently announced that its databases were breached in a massive cyberattack back in July 2017. The hack compromised credit information for an estimated 145 million people; their social security numbers, addresses and driver's license numbers were taken.
Even if you haven't used Equifax services, your information could still be compromised. The company tracks and rates the financial history of American consumers by obtaining data from credit card companies, banks and retailers.
The deadline to sign up for free credit monitoring is Wednesday, January 31.
To enroll in free credit monitoring, Californians should visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Anyone who experiences trouble signing up is encouraged to immediately file a report with the California Department of Justice.
As required by California law, consumers who were impacted by the Equifax breach are eligible for free credit monitoring. Equifax is also offering this service free of charge to consumers who were not impacted by the data breach. The free credit monitoring product is a one-year subscription that includes credit file monitoring and alerts that report any suspicious activity on your credit report at all three credit bureaus. It also includes Social Security number monitoring, identity theft insurance, a copy of your Equifax credit report, and a free service to lock your credit report at Equifax.
Consumers are also encouraged to take the following steps to protect their personal information:
1. Check your credit file
Verify its accuracy, or to dispute incorrect information. Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – are required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
To order your free annual report, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Furthermore, if you become a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission has a Recovery Plan with steps for you to follow.
This does not constitute legal advice.
2. Consider placing a “freeze” on your credit file.
A security freeze prevents your information from being shared with potential creditors and is the strongest form of protection. A freeze costs a one-time fee of $10 (but may cost additional fees to lift or renew). You need to request a security freeze from each of the three reporting agencies. Equifax has waived the $10 fee, but the other two companies, TransUnion and Experian, have not. The Attorney General’s Office does not have the authority to require the companies to waive their fees.
Experian’s credit freeze: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
TransUnion’s credit freeze: https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp
Equifax’s credit freeze: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
3. Put a fraud alert on your credit file.
A fraud alert helps protect you against the possibility of someone opening new credit accounts in your name. A fraud alert lasts 90 days and can be renewed.
To post a fraud alert on your credit file, you must contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies below. If you contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies, fraud alerts will be automatically added by the other two agencies as well.
4. Review your credit reports. Look through each one carefully.
Check your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft, especially accounts opened recently.
5. If you find items you don’t understand on your report, call the credit bureau at the number on the report.
Credit bureau staff will review your report with you. If the information can’t be explained, then you will need to call the creditors involved and report the crime to your local police or sheriff’s office. See the Identity Theft Victim Checklist: www.oag.ca.gov/idtheft/information-sheets.