On July 29th, one of the three major credit reporting companies in the country discovered it had been hacked. Equifax claims the breach started at around mid-May and it claims that the personal information of around 143 million U.S. consumers may have been exposed. That’s almost half of the country! Has your personal data been exposed as well? Here’s what you need to know.
Your Credit and the Security Breach at Equifax
Though the company discovered the breach in July, Equifax only revealed what it knew on September 7th. This has securities officials furious, especially considering three executives at the company sold some of their Equifax stock not long before the announcement. The Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating, but U.S. consumers are who need to worry.
When data breaches happen, criminals will sell that data on the dark web to identity thieves or even foreign governments. In the time it took for Equifax to reveal the breach, victim’s personal data may have already been sold off. Now, experts are recommending vigilance from both the victims of the security breach, and from those who may not have been exposed.
How Do I Protect My Credit?
Financial experts are recommending that you freeze your credit at all three major credit bureaus. This usually costs anywhere between $3 to $10, and this will put restrictions on who is able to view your credit report. This will keep scammers from using your data to open fake accounts or to take out loans in your name. However, before you can take out a loan, apply for housing, or start a checking account, you will need to unfreeze your credit using a special pin given to you by each credit bureau. To get this process started, you can call Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742) or TransUnion (1-888-909-8872).
Right now, Equifax is temporarily offering free credit freezes to customers as well as free identity monitoring. However, some experts are warning consumers not to trust the company. Some have discovered legal waivers and forced arbitration clauses in the terms and conditions of Equifax’s services. This includes their offer for free identity monitoring and the website that checks if your data was a part of the security breach.
This means that simply checking with Equifax to find out if you were one of the victims of this breach could result in you waiving your legal rights to sue. Equifax has publicly responded to the waiver/arbitration controversy by saying they will not enforce those clauses against anyone who takes legal action over the security breach, but many are skeptical of the company’s sincerity.
So far over 30 lawsuits have been filed against Equifax, and even more are expected. Many of these class-action lawsuits will eventually be consolidated into a single lawsuit or a multidistrict litigation. For now, contacting an attorney to learn your legal options is probably the safest bet. Experienced legal counsel can help when it comes to protecting your family from the Equifax security breach. Don’t be wait till after your good name has been ruined.