ATLANTA - Credit reporting and technology company Equifax said Thursday a “cybersecurity incident” may have exposed the personal information of 145.5 million U.S. consumers.
The data that might have been accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses. The company also said driver’s license numbers might also have been exposed. The unauthorized access also compromised some personal information for an undisclosed number of residents of the United Kingdom and Canada, Equifax said.
Unauthorized access to the information occurred from mid-May to July, the company said and was discovered by the company on July 29. Equifax, which is based in Atlanta, engaged an outside cyber security firm to investigate, the company said.
“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard F. Smith said in a news release. “We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations. We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.”
The company has set up a website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, for additional information and to access credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.
Equifax said it would provide a free package of credit monitoring and ID protection services at no cost, which Smith called an unprecedented step.
7 big questions (and answers) involving Equifax data breach
Is this a big deal?
Yes. 145.5 million Americans’ personal information is vulnerable. That includes names, Social Security numbers, and even some driver’s license numbers.
What should I do right away?
First, freeze your credit and freeze your children's credit too. Criminals often open accounts in children's names because they won’t find out until they’re adults.
Second, sign up for free credit monitoring.
What credit monitoring should I use?
Equifax is offering free credit monitoring for one year. But many experts say don’t do it (including several state Attorneys General). They say it won’t hurt, but that it won’t help either. Many experts recommend Credit Karma instead.
How do I freeze my credit?
Make sure you do it with all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Don’t worry: it doesn’t hurt your credit score.
Are there any cons to freezing my credit?
First, there’s a small fee: usually $5-$10.
Second, if you need to borrow money, you’ll need to lift the freeze. It can take a few minutes or a few days to thaw (not terrible, but just be aware if you’re in a rush).
If you thaw it, just remember to freeze it again right after.
Third, a freeze prevents criminals from opening new accounts in your name, but it doesn’t prevent them from messing with your current accounts.
Keep an eye on your bank, credit card, and other accounts (which you should be doing anyway).
Can I sue Equifax?
Yes. You can always sue.
Winning is a different story. You’d have to prove the breach hurt you somehow.
There are several potential class actions already in the works. Typically, in those cases, you don’t have to do anything. They’ll contact you if you are a member of the class, then it’s up to you if you want to be included.
Will Equifax call me out of the blue?
No. If someone calls, claiming to be with Equifax, needing your personal information, hang up.
It’s a scam.
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