The Equifax Breach and What You Need to Know

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the equifax breach

In today’s blog post we’ll provide an update on the Equifax breach and what you need to know, as a young professional, specifically covering: (1) what happened, (2) how to determine if you’ve been impacted, and (3) what you can do to protect yourself.

The Equifax Breach and What Happened

It’s likely no secret to most anyone plugged into the daily news stream that Equifax, one of the three primary credit rating agencies, recently reported that on July 29 they uncovered an unprecedented data breach potentially impacting nearly 143 million people.

Of course, the unfortunate irony of the breach is that a company that itself offers identity protection and is used to help people monitor one of their more confusing aspects of their finances—their credit score—has now been the victim of the largest breach on record.

CNN Money reports that between mid-May and July 29, when the breach was discovered, 209,000 credit card numbers have been compromised in the breach, on top of personal identification information, including names, birthdates, Social Security Numbers, addresses, and even driver’s license numbers for another 182,000 people.

More on the Lifewise Blog: Cybersecurity Best Practices for Young Professionals

How to Determine If You’ve Been Impacted?

In the case of other high-profile data breaches, such as Yahoo and Target, people who were directly impacted were fully aware that they were customers, either shopping directly at Target or using Yahoo for their email. On the other hand, the Equifax breach is different, as it impacts many who didn’t even know they are customers of Equifax in the first place!

To determine if you’ve been impacted by the Equifax Breach, Equifax has set up a site through its subsidiary, Trusted ID Premier, that allows you to enter your last name and the last 6-digits of your SSN to determine if you’ve been impacted. Unfortunately, reviews have been mixed on the accuracy of the tool and there has been debate on whether or not the use of the tool bars you from participating in a class action lawsuit against Equifax (full disclosure: I went ahead and used it anyway).

Regardless of whether you use the tool Equifax is providing, the napkin sketch calculation says there are about 350,000 million people in the U.S. and if 143,000 million people had their sensitive information potentially exposed in the breach, there’s a roughly 50/50 chance that your information has been exposed. Not the odds you want on something like this.

At this point, Equifax, is reporting that it has seen no evidence of unauthorized use of the sensitive material that was exposed, yet. Young professionals must remain vigilant in monitoring moving forward as this data provides hackers the virtual keys to the kingdom—your financial life—and can be used months, if not years, down the road.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself?

Forbes suggests three overarching steps young professionals should take protect themselves and their data:

  1. Prevention: If your data was exposed with the breach, considering a credit freeze could be a viable option. A credit freeze (a.k.a. a credit lock down), can be effective at preventing criminals from opening new accounts in your name, potentially jeopardizing your credit score. To learn more about how and whether to freeze your credit score, click here for a great article from the Chicago Tribune.
  2. Detection: Obviously preventing fraud is goal number one, but a close second is being notified immediately once fraudulent accounts or other forms have been initiated. To do so you can get free credit monitoring from Credit Karma for free if your information was exposed in the Equifax breach. For those that weren’t impacted—a good problem to have—may have to pay!
  3. Resolution: Hopefully for those reading this it doesn’t get to this point, however, if it does you’ll want help because it takes an endless amount of work to resolve identify theft once inflicted. The government has some helpful resources available for those impacted to get you started. In addition, you may want to look for a resolution service to handle the issue for you, some of which may be available through your credit card company.

About Matt Cosgriff, CFP(®)

Minneapolis Financial Planner | Intrapreneur | Young Professional | Millennial Guru | Tech Aficionado | Traveler | Food Lover | Minnesota Wild Fan | Movie Quoter | Follow on Twitter| LinkedIn

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