Equifax Data Breach: Make Sure You Have Protection for Your Personal Information
Equifax has announced that criminals have exploited a vulnerability in their website application, allowing them to gain access to certain files. The data breach appears to have taken place from mid-May through July 2017. The company discovered the unauthorized access on July 29 of this year.
Accessed information includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses. In some cases, driver’s license numbers and even credit card numbers were accessed.
How Do You Know If You Have Been Involved in a Data Breach?
Usually, data breaches are disclosed via the company’s press release, which could reach news outlets in no time. If you hear about a breach involving an institution you do business with, contact the organization in question to check whether your data has been compromised.
You can visit the organization’s website to see if there is a statement about the breach with any instructions about what to do next, or you can call the company’s customer service phone number.
Helping Protect Yourself in the Event of a Data Breach
You may not know if you have been affected by a breach, so your best action is to be proactive. You can use the tips below to help stay ahead of the bad guys and know what to look out for.
- Routinely monitor all of your financial accounts for suspicious activities, such as transactions you did not make. If your financial institutions offer account activity alerts via text or email, sign up for them.
- Cybercriminals may use stolen personal information to access other online accounts you may have via password reset questions. These questions usually ask personal information about yourself such as a parent’s maiden name, previous addresses and other details. If you have used any of this data in those security questions, you should change those questions immediately.
- If the information that was leaked in the breach was a Social Security number or other personally identifiable information, you may want to consider putting a security freeze on your credit report. This will prevent other institutions from accessing your report entirely, which will prevent opening any new credit lines or credit extensions under your name. Also, be sure to contact the Social Security Administration if dealing with a data breach that involves your SSN about next steps.
- If you do encounter suspicious activity on your account, contact your bank immediately and inform them of the activity as well as the fact that your information was exposed in a breach. Secondly, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and file a report.
- If a password was involved in the breach, change it.
What Can You Do If You're a Consumer Affected by the Breach?
Watch your mail. Equifax indicated it plans to send direct mail to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal information were impacted. Stay updated. The company has created resources to assist consumers. These include online information here and a call center at 866-447-7559.
Breaches may seem common these days, and the payoff for cybercriminals may be lucrative. As a result, it can be helpful if you add another layer of protection to your digital life by using an identity theft protection service like LifeLock. Such services can help protect your personal information by sending you alerts† if suspicious activity is identified within their network, or if new accounts are opened with your Social Security number. Also, check out these tips on how to deal with data breaches.
If Your Social Security Number Is Stolen, Take These Steps
- Place a fraud alert on your credit files.
- Monitor your credit files.
- Report any resulting identity theft to the FTC.
- Notify the IRS that you’re a potential tax fraud victim.
- Limit sharing your Social Security number.
No one can prevent all identity theft.
† LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
This article is authored by an employee of Norton by Symantec.
Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.
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