October 13, 2017

What a Mess: Equifax Breach

by David K. Lowe, Clark & Lowe LLC

More than 143 million Americans’ personal information was exposed in an Equifax data breach from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses.

In some cases, they even accessed driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers and dispute documents with personal identifying information from a small number of those who were breached. Everyone should take steps to protect their personal data which may be compromised.

I’ve had multiple calls regarding this breach; Equifax is suggesting that people sign up with them for a free one-year credit monitoring service. Equifax has currently removed the forced arbitration clause and we would recommend signing up. However, it is also my understanding that Equifax cannot definitely determine if your information was part of the breach.

I would also suggest that a consumer go through other credit reporting agencies, like TransUnion or Experian. Have a credit report issued to see if there is any new credit showing up such as a new credit card that they did not authorize. Consumers can request with each Credit Reporting agencies a 90-day Initial Fraud Alert: which means the business has to verify your identity before issuing credit. Learn more about placing a Fraud Alert: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert

I also recommend filing your tax returns as soon as possible, if you can. The hackers may try to file false returns with the information they have. If you wait to file your return and a false one is already filed, it creates many problems for the taxpayer.

Placing a credit freeze with all three CRAs might also be a good direction to take. There are instructions on how to do this and QA on the Federal Trade Commission website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.