Equifax Data Breach: The Facts and What to Do

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If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.

Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.

Whether your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. 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.

Consumers quickly pointed out that Equifax’s terms of service include a consumer-unfriendly piece of legalese known as an arbitration clause, which bans parties from joining class action lawsuits. If a court finds that Equifax was negligently lax with cybersecurity, people bound by the terms might be locked out of benefits, unless they file a new suit.

Equifax issued a new statement Sunday further clarifying its stance on the arbitration clause. “To confirm, enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not prohibit consumers from taking legal action,” Equifax said. The company said it has now removed the arbitration language from the terms of use on its data breach notification site, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website to see if you were impacted. You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.

Per the FTC, 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 www.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.

As always, please feel free to contact Blue Water Credit with any questions/comments/concerns.

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