Everything You Need to Know About the Recent Credit Bureau Hack
Back in September, Equifax admitted that hackers had stolen personally identifiable information from millions of customers. News stories lacked a distinct understanding about how it happened and what we should do next. Although it has fallen out of the news cycle, the most recent credit bureau hack is still relevant.
If this is the first you’ve heard about it or you’re still not sure what the Equifax breach means for you, then you need to keep reading.
Your privacy, credit, and your financial future may be at stake.
What Is Equifax?
Equifax is a credit reporting agency.
Credit reporting agencies are groups that hold on to information related to the credit of individual people and/or businesses.
Agencies get the data from many sources. But the bulk of the data comes directly from banks or credit card companies.
These groups know things like:
- What kind of debt you have
- How much money you owe
- Whether you’ve missed any payments
- If you apply for new credit cards or loans regularly
Credit agencies organize your data by attaching it to your personally identifiable information. For example, your social security number, birth date, address, and even your credit card numbers.
The U.S. has three big agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Each has access to sensitive financial information that is otherwise private.
Why do these agencies have all your information if you’ve never heard of them?
This is one of the biggest questions Americans are asking after the credit bureau hack.
In theory, credit rating agencies serve both you and potential lenders. By keeping this information and interpreting it, these agencies make the whole finance process simpler.
It should be easier for you to apply for new credit because they sort through all the information for the banks, which should make it easier for lenders to make a swifter decision.
Who Was Affected by the Credit Bureau Hack?
Because Equifax is one of the three major reporting bureaus and they receive data from every bank and lender, the agency stores a lot of data.
It may be a shock, but it’s also no surprise to learn that 145.5 million people in the United States are affected by the credit bureau hack.
(Two months later, it became clear that 700,000 British customers were also affected by the hack.)
Are you one of the 145.5 million? It’s likely. If you haven’t already looked into it, do so now.
In the wake of the credit bureau hack, Equifax set up a dedicated webpage for consumers to visit.
All you need to do is enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number and you’ll find out if your data was stolen in an email.
We understand the irony of providing personally identifiable information to a company that may have just lost all yours. But it’s worth doing anyway.
Additionally, when the writers at TechRadar requested information, only one of the two contributing reporters got an email back. So, you may not receive the email you requested.
What Data Was Taken?
The Equifax data breach is particularly egregious in part because of the number of people affected. However, the types of data stolen made a bad situation worse.
In past breaches of financial groups, only some details became exposed. Addresses, partial social security numbers, and occasional credit card numbers have been gathered in previous attacks.
The most recent Equifax credit bureau hack is different. If your data was affected, some or all of the following information may have been compromised:
- Your full name
- Home address
- Your birth date
- Full social security number
- Your credit card numbers
- Your driver’s license number
Essentially, the hackers could have everything they need to steal your identity. It’s possible you won’t even notice it’s happened until it’s too late.
Whether your data was possibly compromised or confirmed to be lost, you need to take preventative steps to protect yourself.
The hackers have the data required to do serious, long-lasting damage to your finances.
How to Protect Yourself Post-Hack
The scope of the credit bureau hack provides serious incentive to reconsider security and credit practices.
Whether you were impacted or not, it’s worth considering ways to protect yourself from potential identity theft.
Here are a few ways to do just that:
1. Freeze Your Credit
If your information was compromised in the credit bureau hack or you want to play it safe, then a credit freeze is in order.
A credit freeze will prevent anyone from taking out a credit card or loan in your name without your permission.
It will also prevent unauthorized parties from accessing your existing accounts. Though, if you’ve experienced fraud, you’ll still need to read every statement to make sure there are no funny transactions.
A credit freeze is the best way to go because it locks down your credit entirely. Only you can lift a credit freeze unless you leave it to expire.
This is why credit freezes are better than a fraud alert in a scenario like the Equifax breach.
Fraud Alerts Alone Aren’t Enough
A fraud alert only requires further verification from you when you generate a credit inquiry.
Because the hackers stole an incredible amount of personal information, they might also have found a way to confirm your identity. This could make a fraud alert useless in the most severe cases.
Freezing your credit requires a phone call to all three credit reporting agencies.
Don’t wait for unexpected bills to find their way to your doorstep.
Call the credit agencies today:
- Equifax – 1-800-349-9960
- Experian – 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion – 1-888-909-8872
Watch This Video And Learn More About The Equifax Hack
2. Consider Credit Monitoring
Prior to the Equifax breach, most financial advisors would have told you that credit monitoring is an unnecessary service.
Because you can do it on your own.
By keeping an eye on your credit report and carefully reading your statements, you’ll be able to keep an eye on fraud.
However, not everyone has the time or energy to do that and in a few months, the uncertainty of this post-Equifax environment will have dissipated.
However, if you aren’t freezing your credit or placing a fraud alert on your account AND you aren’t great at keeping up with your bills, then temporary credit monitoring may be a good product.
3. Add Two Factor Security
Because the thieves got more than your basic information in the credit bureau hack, your entire account is in jeopardy.
Adding two-factor security measures to every account is the best way to protect yourself.
In many cases, lenders and banks ask you for additional details when you log on to your account from a new device or location.
You may have to provide your social security number, your full credit card number, your zip code, or all three.
The problem? All that data may have been stolen if you were affected by the credit bureau hack.
Essentially, whoever ends up with your data may be able to log on to your accounts without you knowing. Even though the log-in occurred on a new device, the thief already has the data they need to circumvent your security.
By adding two-factor security, you’ll need to personally confirm the log-in on your phone or by email.
You’ll get an automatic alert from the bank when someone – including you – tries to log in to your account.
It’ll far easier to stop a criminal from busting into your bank.
Take two-factor security a step further by talking to your phone carrier about increasing security for that account, too.
Adding a PIN or security question will prevent a potential thief from calling up your mobile phone provider and pretending to be you to access your data.
4. Be Wary of Strange Emails
A credit bureau hack doesn’t just target your bank account directly.
They can also use your personal information to send you nasty, phishing emails designed to steal even more of your information.
When a fraudster knows what banks you work with or what financial products you own, it is easier to target you via email.
By pretending to be your bank and asking you to verify your information, they can con you into accepting their malware on to your computer.
In some cases, they’ll manage to steal more information through spyware.
But they can also use ransomware, which will lock you out of your computer’s hard drive unless you pay a ransom.
Pay close attention to any emails you receive from institutions you hold accounts with. Look out for:
- Spelling errors
- Poor grammar
- Strange email addresses
- Random verification checks
- Mismatched graphics
Do not under any circumstances click a link you did not request.
Don’t forget to pay extra attention to tax scams.
Identity thieves don’t just target credit cards and loans. The data stolen from Equifax can also be used to pilfer your tax refund.
The number of tax fraud victims has fallen in recent years, but it is still a popular scam.
Protect Your Credit in the Face of Uncertainty
A credit bureau hack like the Equifax attack presents challenges to everyone affected regardless of your credit.
In some cases, it will challenge you to learn more than you ever want to know about your credit and finances like how to remove negative marks from your credit report.
Being proactive about your security will help you avoid or mitigate the worst of the potential damage.
By keeping a close eye on your statements, email, and credit report, you should be able to protect your credit.
Did this post answer your questions about the Equifax credit bureau hack?
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