DATA BREACHES AND HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

 

            The Equifax data breach that occurred earlier this month is said to have affected 143 million U.S. customers which is about 44% of the population. A data breach is an incident in which sensitive, protected or confidential data has potentially been viewed, stolen or used by an individual unauthorized to do so. Data breaches may involve personal health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets or intellectual property.

 

            While data breaches are becoming more common, consumers should not treat the breaches as harmless.  The opposite is true.  The impact of these data breaches remains serious business for every U.S. consumer.  The hackers who breached Equifax gained access to full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.  The information that was stolen is exactly what we as consumers use to open bank accounts and credit accounts.  This is the same type of information criminals will use to impersonate consumers to open bank accounts and other credit accounts.

 

            Appropriate steps should be taken by every consumer to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft as a result of any data breach.   First, you should determine if you have been impacted by the Equifax 2017 breach.  You can check to see if your personal information is potentially impacted here: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/. In addition, Equifax is offering complimentary credit file monitoring and identity theft protection through TrustedID Premier.  This is available for those who were impacted and even for those who were not.  You will find more information about this service at the same link provided above. 

 

                  Please understand that the damage from a data breach such as Equifax may not be seen for many years.  Checking your bank statements and credit card statements for accuracy should become a habit.  Finally, you should review the CFPB’s September 9, 2017 article titled, Identity theft protection following the Equifax data breach.  It contains important information and can be found here:  https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/identity-theft-protection-following-equifax-data-breach/