Last week, one of the three largest credit bureaus in the U.S. announced it was hacked and the personal information of 143 million Americans was stolen. The hackers also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
The Associated Press reports that Equifax has been the focus of anger and distrust, not only for the breach but over how it initially was handled. The huge hack occurred from May through July, but the company didn’t publicly announce it until more than a month later.
ARE YOU AFFECTED?
Considering the size and scope of the breach, it’s probably better just to assume you were part of it. People trying to find out if they were affected have gotten some confusing or contradictory information, even from Department of Justice officials.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a consumer alert for the data breach and urged people to check if they have been affected by going to an Equifax website. However, the Oregon Attorney General’s Office is telling consumers not to visit Equifax but to check their credit through other agencies such as annualcreditreport.com.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
— Closely monitor your own credit reports, which are available free once a year, and stagger them to see one every four months.
— Stay vigilant, possibly for a long time. Scammers who get ahold of the data could use it at any time — and with 143 million to choose from, they may be patient.
— Consider freezing your credit reports. This is considered the most effective way to prevent thieves from opening new credit cards or loans in your name, but it also prevents you from opening new accounts. So if you want to apply for something, you need to lift the freeze a few days beforehand. In some states there is a charge for freezing or unfreezing your credit. Fees are generally $5 or $10 per credit bureau.
Fraud alert: If you detect fraud on any account, you can contact one…