“On July 29, 2017, Equifax discovered that attackers had gained unauthorized access to private data belonging to an estimated 143 million Americans by exploiting a vulnerability in a website application.”
Whom to Trust?
When the breeches are multiple and continuous, where does one turn for good advice? Alliant’s Reliable Tech News is such a source. We check out original sources to bring you trusted and helpful information. In the matter of the 143 million records exposed at Equifax our source is Malwarebytes, a leader in security protection.
Malwarebytes provides an insightful article giving steps of protection against identity theft. After all, that is the issue. If they have your data, they can steal your identity. Easily.
What’s the Damage?
Equifax’s end of July discovery noted that the illegitimate access occurred from mid-May through July of 2017.
- Social Security numbers
- Birth dates
- Driver’s license numbers (in some cases)
- Credit card numbers (for approx. 209,000 U.S. consumers)
The news source, Reuters, reported: “More than 30 lawsuits have been filed in the United States against Equifax Inc (EFX.N) after the credit reporting company said thieves may have stolen personal information for 143 million Americans in one of the largest hackings ever.”
Eventually (9/14/17), Equifax confirmed the vulnerability specifically and noted that there was a patch available for this flaw as early as March 2017, two months prior to the incident.
What’s to be Done?
Should any steps be taken? Malwarebytes takes a very logical approach:
“Even if you weren’t one of the 143 million, you might still want to take some precautions. You could instead be part of the millions of folks who’ve had their data stolen over the course of online history. Basically, if you have a social security number, have ever run a credit check, or have a pulse, you should listen up. Why? Two words: identity theft.”
143 million represents almost 60% of adults in the US. Over half. Identity theft allows someone other than you to:
- Open financial accounts
- Apply for credit cards, mortgages, and other financial services
- Get medical care at your expense
- File for a tax refund in your name
- Get a job in your name and let you pay the taxes
- Steal your benefits
3 Simple Steps to Take
Here are the steps offered by Malwarebytes to protect yourself:
A. Freeze your credit immediately with four major credit bureaus – this prevents any new account being opened in your name. Credit cards still work. Unfreeze if you want to apply for a loan, open a new credit card or make any type of purchase requiring a check of credit. Freezing costs from $10-$30, but is worth the expense given the potential damage.
Where to go to freeze your credit
Equifax: (800) 685-1111 or https://www.freeze.equifax.com/
Experian: (888) 397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/freeze
TransUnion: (888) 909-8872 or https://freeze.transunion.com/
Note: their phone prompts move quickly, so have your newly thought-up PIN and credit card information readily available.
Innovis: (800) 540-2505 or https://www.innovis.com/securityFreeze
B. Request a free credit report from three major agencies.
The link will take you to AnnualCreditReport.com which provides a free annual credit report for Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In fact, the site is a joint effort sponsored by the three major credit reporting agencies and is authorized by Federal law. While there is no cost, there is the requirement of significant effort to demonstrate your identity as genuine.
C. Enable alerts on your accounts
An alert set up on your credit card and bank accounts helps you to keep an eye on activity for larger purchases. Distinguish between accounts regularly used and those rarely used. The rarely used account will benefit from a low alert amount ($1-$10) so you’re notified the second any transaction happens. The regular accounts should have an alert set to a dollar amount that would clearly be unusual activity for that particular card ($200 – $500).
While we cannot say that following the advice in this article will absolutely protect you for all aspects of identity theft, you have at least taken action to raise alerts and barriers which will be helpful in making discoveries that you might not have had any idea regarding. There are other threats associated with scammers or fraudsters looking to capitalize on this situation that you also need to consider as the are presented in email, on the phone, in regular mail or in person.
Look for more advice at the Federal Trade Commission.