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The Equifac Breach and How to Protect Yourself

By Kelson Howerton
On October 13, 2017

On September 7, Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting services in the world, announced that up to 143 million Americans had their financial information compromised in the wake of a massive data breach. According to Equifax, the breach began in May and continued until it was discovered on July 29 – nearly six weeks before the company’s announcement of the attack.

    These 143 million Americans, which is roughly 43 percent of the total population and over half of American adults, had information such as birth dates, social security numbers, addresses and drivers license numbers compromised. Additionally, the credit card numbers of 209,000 Americans and credit dispute documents of 182,000 customers were also leaked in the data breach.

    Even if you have never directly used Equifax before, you may still be affected by this breach, as these major credit reporting agencies track the financial data of everyone. If you have ever applied for or inquired about a loan, credit card, cellphone plan, job, or, yes, even a university, your information has likely circulated through one of these companies. Even worse, credit monitoring agencies do not just have pieces of your information, they likely have all of it. You can change a password or cancel a credit card, but you cannot change your birth date, social security number or past addresses, making this breach something to take very seriously.

    It is not all doom and gloom, however, as the sheer scale of Americans affected by this breach means that even if your information was leaked, you may still have time to protect yourself from the worst. First off, if you have not already been notified by Equifax, you can visit to see if you were affected by the breach. By typing in your last name and the last six digits of your social security number, Equifax can tell you if your information has been compromised. Next, request a credit report as soon as possible. You are entitled to request one free credit report a year, so use to pick up a copy of your credit report, allowing you to know where you are now so you can monitor your credit moving forward. Along with that, be sure to monitor all of your finances, regularly checking your bank accounts and credit card statements for suspicious activity.

    If Equifax suspects your information was compromised in the breach, it will direct you to its free credit monitoring service. Even if you are not affected by the breach, Equifax is offering a free one-year subscription to its premium credit monitoring service, which notifies you if there have been any changes to your credit reports from Equifax and the two other major credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion. Additionally, the service will monitor uses of your Social Security number and offers up to $1 million in identity theft insurance. Just know that you will be automatically charged once the free year expires, and by enrolling in the program, you waive all rights to sue Equifax unless you opt out through a written letter to the company.

    Lastly, you can put a freeze on your credit; however, this route is only advised as a last resort. Initiating a credit freeze will prevent anyone from accessing your credit report, including yourself. To request a credit freeze, you will have to call all three credit reporting agencies – Equifax (1-800-349-9960), TransUnion (1-888-909-8872), and Experian (1-888-397-3742) – and will have to pay a small fee (which in the state of West Virginia will cost you $5 to place and lift a credit freeze) unless you have evidence of identity theft.

    While it may be easy to brush this situation in hopes that you were not affected, be sure to take every precaution by seeing if any of your information was compromised and taking steps to secure your finances. If your information were to get into the hands of someone seeking to do harm, you could feel the repercussions of your inaction for the rest of your life.

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