It has happened again. This time 143 million people have been impacted by this cyber breach. Why is this breach more confusing than the other data breaches and what does that mean for you? With the Home Depot breach, the information compromised was our credit card information allowing for fraud. With Yahoo, the information compromised were your email, passwords, and contents in your email allowing for scams, fraud and phishing.
With the Equifax breach, large amounts of PII (personally identifiable information) including date of birth, social security number, home address, and phone number have been exposed. It’s possible cyber thieves can open lines of credit, bank accounts, get a driver’s license and new credit cards in your name. Identity theft can come in multiple forms from thieves being able to cash your personal checks or pick up medical prescriptions. Recovering from identity theft can take months or even years.
Equifax also has not been very forth coming regarding the details of the breach and has folded under public pressure over the weekend, and Monday to do more for consumers, leading to misinformation and increasing confusion for consumers.
Here are the facts on how to protect yourself with the Equifax breach:
- Sign up for 1-year free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance with Equifax. Equifax is offering their own service for free. That may not inspire trust, so you may want to pay for additional credit monitoring after the free year expires or use an alternative source altogether (Experian, TransUnion). If you do sign up for this, you are most likely waiving your right to sue Equifax.
- Check to see if you have been impacted at equifaxsecurity2017.com. Though it may not be reassuring to do this considering Equifax has not proven its ability to protect your information. Other experts state that possibly inputting your information into the website could expose you to greater risks, but it is the way to confirm if you have been compromised. Though it is not the best and it caused some confusion Friday morning because the sites security ID was not being recognized by Google Chrome, it’s the only way to know if your information has been impacted.
- Watch your finances for unauthorized charges. Watch credit cards, bank statements, medical bills, insurance bills and new credit card applications. If you get a notice from the IRS stating you owe taxes, contact them immediately to confirm it or report it as fraud.
- Take this identity theft protection quiz with Legal Shred. It’s a quick and easy way to educate yourself on how to prevent identity theft.
- Re-evaluate your passwords. When you change your password try to have at least 12- 18 characters including capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Think of a passphrase to use versus a password. Never share passphrases with anyone. It’s also best to use a password manager like Last Pass that can create passwords for you.
- Check the other two main credit monitoring companies: Experian (1-888-347-3742) and TransUnion (1-888-909-8872). Confirm there were no unauthorized charges in the past. You can also call Equifax (1-800-349-9960).
- Review the resources at the Identity Theft Resource Center. There are numerous resources on this site. This can also be a great way to encourage teens think about how to protect their information and reduce the opportunity of identity theft.
- You can authorize a credit freeze. This means placing restrictions on who can view your credit report (lenders, potential employers). Equifax is offering this free for 30 days. Whether it’s done through them or another provider, it is a good thing to do.
- Check your annual credit report. Go to annualcreditreport.com. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are also required to give you one free credit report a year. Take advantage and check your credit report once a quarter using each of these resources.
Lastly, breathe. This is the new normal. Remember, security is everyone’s responsibility. Control what you can control with good personal security hygiene habits.
Jessica Robinson, is a writer and Founder & CEO of PurePoint International. As a cyber security & risk management expert she advises and consults with small and medium sized businesses on cyber prevention and response. Learn more at www.the-purepoint.com.