Equifax Data Breach
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. 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.
Steps to consider:
• Place an initial 90-day fraud alert on your credit file. The Federal Trade Commission recommends initiating a fraud alert to make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. This is free and requires lenders to contact you if someone (including yourself) tries to apply for credit.
• Check your credit file to 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.
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
• Place 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.
• Check with the Equifax security website to see if your personal information was affected by the data breach. Follow the link, click on the Potential Impact tab and follow the steps listed on the page, which include providing Equifax with your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
Furthermore, if you become a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission has a Recovery Plan with steps for you to follow.
If you do find yourself a victim of fraud, there is hope. The California Attorney General's Office has outlined procedures that will help you restore your good name. They can be found at http://ag.ca.gov/idtheft/tips.php . Recommendations include reporting the fraud to the aforementioned credit bureaus, filing a police report, contesting bills, and contacting creditors.
This does not constitute legal advice.