On September 7, consumer reporting agency Equifax announced that hackers gained unauthorized access to its data files. As many as 143 million people, mostly in the United States, are potentially impacted by this breach. The company also identified criminal access to information involving residents of the United Kingdom and Canada, adding that no other countries were affected.
According to a videotaped statement from Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard F. Smith, the criminal activity took place between mid-May and July. It was discovered on July 29, at which time Equifax hired a cyber security firm to investigate its scope. “The review found no evidence of unauthorized activity on our core credit reporting data bases,” he said.
The compromised information includes Social Security numbers, addresses, birthdates and driver’s license data. In addition, Equifax is reporting that the credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximate 182,000 U.S. consumers were accessed. The company said it will send direct mail notices to those whose credit card numbers or dispute documents were impacted.
Equifax Reaches Out to Consumers
In response to this incident, Equifax is offering all U.S. consumers a one-year consumer protection package at no cost. According to a statement from the company, the program is called TrustedID Premier and “includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers.” Registrations are accepted through November 21, 2017. To sign up for TrustedID Premier, you can visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, a website set up to address issues concerning this data breach.
You can also use this designated website to search the Equifax data base to see if your personal information was compromised. You will be asked for your name and last six digits of your Social Security number, so make sure you are using a secure computer and an encrypted network connection, advises the Federal Trade Commission.
Top Precautions to Take Now
Whether or not you were affected by this data breach, there are precautions to take now to monitor and protect your identity.
- Check your credit report. “We suggest that our members take the opportunity to review their credit reports regularly,” said David Sprague, President and CEO of Hanscom Federal Credit Union. “We offer our members a free credit score and report review, which we strongly recommend that they take advantage of. Members can get more information about and schedule this review by visiting hfcu.org/score.”
- Monitor your credit card statement. Look for any unauthorized charges, regardless of how small they are. It is easy to overlook a small charge from a retailer that you frequent, but it is important to cross-check each transaction.
- Stay on top of your bank accounts. Set a time each day to review your accounts. The transactions of the past day will still be fresh in your mind. Make it easy by signing up for Online Access and adding the Hanscom FCU app to your phone.
- Set up Hanscom Federal Credit Union account alerts. When using Online Access, you will see Alerts and Security options. Take time to set up alerts to notify you if your account hits a specified balance, there is a transaction on your account, your security alert preferences are changed, a new user is created, the forgot password process is completed, or a new computer browser is identified. Learn more here.
- Add a fraud alert to your credit file. This type of alert warns credit issuers that your personal data might have been stolen so that all efforts will be used to verify your identity before opening credit in your name. An Initial Alert lasts 90 to 180 days. An Extended Alert can last seven years. Get details about setting up credit report fraud alerts here. Keep in mind that this will only draw caution if someone tries to open a new account in your name. It will not protect you from unauthorized use of existing accounts.
- File your taxes early. Scammers may try to use your Social Security number to claim a tax refund. Beat them to it by filing your return promptly.
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