The Equifax Breach And The Danger Of Identity Theft
During the months of mid-May through July, one of the biggest hacks in history was underway. There were two victims of this devastating cyberattack. The first one, Equifax, is one of the nation’s major credit reporting agencies. The second victim includes the 143 million Americans whose personal information were entrusted to Equifax. This personal information includes the names of customers, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, and even driver’s license numbers. Even more serious is the some 200,000 credit card numbers that were also stolen. Countless people have become the victims of identity theft, in an event that has caused sweeping panic.
The response from Equifax has been highly criticized by Americans, with the apology from CEO Richard Smith falling flat and seeming hollow, saying he was, “deeply sorry”. He recently stepped down as CEO following this massive release of their customers information. To remedy the situation, Equifax has put together a “relief package” to help their customers protect their information and assist those were affected by the hack. This package includes being able to monitor credit files across all 3 credit report companies, access to Equifax’s credit files, the ability to lock your credit file, an insurance policy that will cover any costs associated with identity theft, and continual scanning for your social security number across the dark web.
Identity theft is something that many people may worry about, but never think it will happen to them. At that point, the damage will already be done. Being prepared and knowing the precautions to take to stay vigilant in keeping your identity private and safe. In the event of a data breach like this, the first thing you need to do is check your credit reports. This can be done for free by visiting a site like annualcreditreport.com, and checking if there is any accounts or activity that you don’t recognize. Going a step further, you can consider placing a credit freeze on your accounts. This will make it harder for anyone to open an account in your name in the event that your personal information has been stolen. However, this won’t stop anyone from placing charges on your account if your credit card numbers have already been compromised.
Identity theft can happen in a number of ways, but knowing these various methods can help you protect yourself. Identity thieves can steal your personal information by reading bills or documents with sensitive information that you may have absentmindedly thrown away. This can be deterred by storing these documents in a safe area, such as a safe or lockable filing cabinet. For documents you don’t need anymore, running through them through a shredder will work. Getting any mail in your mailbox as soon as possible will also give identity thieves a smaller chance in obtaining your information. If you are asked for your Social Security number, be sure that those who are asking are reputable and trusted sources, and never give it out over the phone. While working on a computer, be sure to have strong passwords that can’t be easily guessed by hackers.