Equifax Data BreachEquifax is one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. The Equifax data breach occurred exposing the personal information of 143 million Americans. Names, Social Security numbers, Birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, drivers license numbers. The hackers also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal information on them.

Here’s what you need to know.

How Did the Equifax Data Breach Happen?

The details of the data breach are still being discovered. What they do know – A tool call Apache Struts was designed to build web applications. This tool is used by many large businesses and government organizations. Equifax used the tool to support its online dispute portal. There was a flaw in the tool and this flaw allowed hackers to take control of Equifax’s website.

One of the most frustrating parts of this story is that Equifax knew about the flaw! They were aware of the security flaw a full two months before the hack happened. The Equifax data breach lasted from mid May through July 30th. Equifax’s security department “was aware of this vulnerability at that time, and took efforts to identity and to patch any vulnerable systems.”

Am I Affected by the Equifax Data Breach?

You will need to visit Equifax’s website to see if you were affected by the data breach. Click here: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ 

You will click on the link that says “Potential Impact” and will need the following information:

  • Your last name
  • The last six digits of your Social Security number

It will tell you if you have been impacted by the data breach. Whether or not your information was exposed consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring services. Currently they are giving consumers until November 21, 2017 to enroll. When the free monitoring services initially came out they forced you to agree to not suing them. This language has since been removed.

I’m Affected – What Do I Do Now?

  • Check your credit reports – all of them. You will want to pull a report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get them for free by clicking on www.AnnualCreditReport.com. My favorite place to pull credit reports is through www.MyFico.com. Not only can I see my credit reports but I can also see my credit score. Save the credit reports for future reference. You will want to run your credit at least twice per year to make sure you recognize all of the activity. If you see something you don’t recognize I would recommend you visit www.IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert on your accounts. Notify your credit card companies that your information was compromised from the Equifax data breach. This will help them to monitor your accounts closely for unusual activity.
  • Consider placing a freeze on your credit. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. You will want to keep in mind a credit freeze will not prevent someone from making charges on your existing accounts.
  • Setup alerts for your credit cards. If unusual activity happens on your card it will text you.
  • Closely monitor your statements. When the statements come in the mail review them carefully. Sign up each of your accounts so you can monitor it between statements online. You only have so many days to dispute the activity.
  • File your taxes on time. Identity thieves love to get tax refunds! If an additional tax return is filed with your Social Security number on it the IRS will reject it.
  • Always, always open letters from tax agencies immediately!