By now, many of you have heard about the 2017 Equifax security breach. So what does this mean?
Equifax is one of the three major credit-reporting agencies. (Experian and TransUnion are the others.) If you have applied for credit in any way, like for a new phone purchased on a one-year plan, new credit card or loan, your information is stored by Equifax.
Equifax revealed a hack of its machines and account information. Over 143,000,000 million are affected. There was highly sensitive consumer information accessed, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers and certain dispute documents, which included personal identifying information, for approximately 182,000 consumers were accessed.
Equifax is providing an easy way to see if your information was impacted. Just go to equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on “Am I Impacted?,” and enter your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security number.
If it comes back that your information was part of the breach, it doesn’t mean that it is inevitable that you will be a victim of identity theft. It does mean that you are more vulnerable to things like identity and credit card theft, so you need to be proactive to protect yourself.
Equifax is offering free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring to all US customers. To get that protection, on the equifaxsecurity2017.com site go to “Enroll to Protect & Monitor” and fill out the form. However, this protection has been offered with some tricky catches, like possibly waiving your rights to pursue specific legal remedies and forcing you into arbitration or mediation.
I am highly suspicious of this solution offered by the very agency that was hacked. My recommendation at this point is to check out other alternatives, like CreditKarma. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other reputable news reporting agencies are running special segments on this matter. I encourage you to read that information as it becomes available.
I also highly recommend freezing your credit account with all three credit-reporting agencies. You can unfreeze it if you need to apply for credit and then freeze it again. Read here for more about this option.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, these types of security threats are always a possibility. It is important not to panic, instead use it as a learning opportunity and keep yourself informed.
The Federal Trade Commission’s website provides a lot of great information and resources to help you protect yourself against identity theft, as well as information about security alerts. Take some time to review the information on this site to help keep yourself safe.
Vigilance and password security are critical. No two passwords for any account should be the same or similar. In reality, you should be using a Password Manager for storage and creation of all of your account information.
Long gone are the days when you could reasonably expect to remember passwords for your accounts. The online world has changed and there is truly no way to avoid being involved. Being proactive is the only way to protect yourself.
We offer classes and support non-stop throughout the year. Check with other community service providers and private businesses that might help you learn these skills, understand the risks, and how to avoid being a victim.