business Everything You Need to Know about the Equifax Data Breach August 15, 2019 One of the nation’s major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, was hacked in 2017, but many are still feeling the impact of this massive breach. Here’s our advice. *Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published September 18, 2017 but has been updated as of August 15, 2019 for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., experienced a data breach during the summer of 2017 that was uncovered that September. Approximately 147 million Americans’ sensitive information was exposed to hackers from mid-May through July. If you have a credit report, you may have been a victim. Ironically, the same day that the Capital One Breach was disclosed, settlement information regarding the 2017 Equifax data breach was published. As of July 30, 2019, Equifax has promised to pay nearly $700 million to directly help consumers affected by the breach. Here are the details. The facts According to Equifax, The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. They snagged personal information from people in the UK and Canada too. In response to the attack, Equifax established a website for users to both determine if their information was compromised and, if so, provide various credit protection services for a year. How can you find out if your information has been exposed? Step 1: Find out if your information was exposed by visiting Equifax’s website, https://eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/en/eligibility. Step 2: You’ll need to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so the site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach. Other things to note Visit annualcreditreport.com to check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and report the theft-- 1-877-438-4338. You can also consider placing a fraud alert on your files rather than a freeze. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim—hence they should validate that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you. As soon as you have the tax information you need, file your taxes. Do this as early as possible---before a scammer can. How can you file a claim? The FTC opened up the online claims process on July 31, 2019. Here, affected consumers can either file a digital form or print one out and send it in to claim some of the settlement. The deadline to submit a claim is January 22, 2020. What does the settlement provide? By filing a claim, affected consumers can… Receive at least four years of credit monitoring services through Experian and up to six additional years of monitoring with Equifax. If you already have credit monitoring, you can request a cash payment of up to $125 in place. Be compensated for time loss. Affected consumers are able to submit claims for any time they had to spend dealing with the data breach- $25 per hour, up to 20 hours. Get a cash payment of up to $20,000 for any losses or fraud that were the results of the breach or any out-of-pocket expenses they may have incurred (paying to freeze/unfreeze credit reports, for example). Bear in mind that you’ll need receipts to prove how much was lost. Get partial reimbursement for Equifax credit monitoring- Did you pay for an Equifax credit monitoring or identity theft protection subscription from September 7, 2016 to September 7, 2017? You can be reimbursed for up to $25% of your subscription payment. Ongoing best practices Let’s face it. We all want to avail ourselves of the latest technologies and automated conveniences. With this ability comes risk. This risk existed before the latest breach and will exist after. As a result, you should already be doing the following: Monitoring your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for suspicious activity. Most major credit card services post transactions for your viewing daily. Get in the habit of visiting these accounts daily. Considering placing a credit freeze on your files. This makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name, but it will not prevent a criminal from making charges to your existing accounts. Changing your on-line passwords regularly and using different passwords for different websites. Protecting yourself from a breach such as this one depends on keeping a watchful eye on your accounts and having this emergency number at your disposal. FTC- 1-877-438-4338. Don’t hesitate to contact us for further guidance.