Victims of Equifax breach taking steps to protect personal information
By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – This week, many of the 143 million American consumers whose information may have been compromised in a massive data breach of Equifax will follow steps necessary to enroll in the company’s complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring program. But there are still plenty of questions as both consumers and the major credit reporting agency try to navigate how to move forward.
Last week, many consumers held their breath and logged on to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine if their personal information had been compromised. Those who “may” have been affected were given a date to return to the website to enroll in the monitoring services.
However, more questions followed as various news sources, such as CNBC, CBS, and Forbes, began reporting that verbiage within the terms of service for the monitoring service basically waived consumers’ rights to take legal action against Equifax.
The massive data breach reportedly spanned from mid-May through July, exposing consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. Hackers also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for another 182,000. Even people in the UK and Canada were not safe.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. consumers can get one year of free credit monitoring and other services, regardless if their information was exposed or not. Consumers are given an enrollment date when they check the status of their information through the dedicated website. Consumers have until Nov. 21 to enroll.
The FTC has released a list of steps consumers should take if they feel their information has been compromised:
- Check credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for free at annualcreditreport.com
- Consider placing a credit freeze on files. This makes it harder for someone to open a new account in someone else’s name. It’s important to note that a credit freeze will not prevent a thief from making changes to existing accounts.
- If a credit freeze seems too extreme, consider placing a fraud alert on accounts instead.
- Monitor existing credit and bank accounts closely for suspicious charges.
- File taxes early to prevent a scammer from doing so first.
Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/ to learn more about protecting personal information following a data breach.