According to Equifax, the breach occurred from mid-May through July. Hackers were able to access names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some case, driver’s license numbers. The thieves were also able to access credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and certain documents containing personal identifying information for an estimated 182,000. Americans are not the only ones affected. Personal information of people in the UK and Canada were also accessed. The agency operates in 24 countries, but consumers from no other countries are suspected to have been impacted.
Equifax discovered the data breach on July 29. The company states they “acted immediately to stop the intrusion” and promptly hired an independent cybersecurity firm to conduct a review to determine what information and how much was accessed.
By targeting Equifax or any of the other leading credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, hackers can essentially steal all of the information they need to do the most damage to consumers. According to their website, Equifax handles data on more than 820 million consumers and more than 91 million businesses worldwide. This isn't the first time hackers have attacked the agency. According to a New York Times, this is the third time the company has been targeted since 2015. In the cyberattack, criminals discovered a vulnerability in a U.S. website application and used it to gain access to the data.
Better Business Bureau® serving Eastern Oklahoma encourages all consumers to take these steps to help protect their personal information:
1) Check Your Credit Report: By looking at your credit report, you can identify any suspicious activity like unrecognized credit cards or loans over the last few months. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, the only website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to provide you with a free annual credit report.
2) Activating a credit freeze or fraud alert: A credit freeze locks down your credit reports and scores and prevents scammers from using your information to open new lines of credit. A fraud alert doesn't prevent new lines of credit from being opened but attaches an alert to your credit report. This alert notifies lenders to verify the identity of anyone attempting to open an account in your name. Read BBB Tips on both of these actions here.
3) Monitor your existing accounts: The hack included the leak of some credit cards, be sure to keep a close eye on your accounts for any unrecognized charges. Also be on alert for any emails from your financial institutions alerting you about attempts to access your account.
You may also consider:
4) Visit Equifax’s website: In response to the data breach, Equifax established a website where consumers can determine if their information was impacted.
5) Enroll in Free Credit Monitoring: Equifax is offering all U.S. consumers a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. Click here to learn more about enrolling.
BBB encourages reviewing the terms of agreement and product use any time a consumer uses products online or before signing a contract.
BBB will be monitoring the situation as it continues to evolve. We ask consumers who are worried about the situation to check back regularly.