As many of you are aware Equifax has announced that cybercriminals have exploited a vulnerability in their website, allowing them to gain access to certain files. The information stolen includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses. In some cases, driver's license numbers and even, credit card numbers were accessed.  The data breach appears to have taken place from mid-May through July 2017.  The company discovered the unauthorized access on July 29 of this year.  During the company’s investigation of this breach, it was also found that there was access to some personal information for some UK and Canadian residents.

Who is Equifax?

Equifax Inc. is a consumer credit reporting agency in the United States, considered one of the three largest American credit agencies along with Experian and TransUnion. Founded in 1899, Equifax is the oldest of the three agencies and gathers and maintains information on over 800 million consumers and more than 88 million businesses worldwide. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Equifax is a global service provider with US $2.7 billion in annual revenue and 9,000+ employees in 14 countries.

How do you know if you have been involved in a data breach?

Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

·         Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.

·         Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.

·         You also can access frequently asked questions at the site

Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing 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.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.

Here is a link to a helpful video to briefly explain the steps you can take if you feel your private information has been compromised:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0127-what-do-after-data-breach

Unfortunately data breaches are becoming more and more common, it is good for us and for our consumers to be prepared and diligent in monitoring our credit profiles and online presence proactively.

Byline: Michael Neill, Branch Manager, American Financial Network

Mortgage Banker - Direct Lender

http://www.afncorp.com

(408) 643-9161