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CLIENT ALERT: Equifax Data Breach

By: Rudy Verner and Rylee Johnston

One of the most destructive data breaches in history has left 143 million people wondering if their highly personal data has been exposed to hackers. Last week, the credit reporting agency Equifax announced that cybercriminals stole sensitive personal information of consumers, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver's license numbers.

Equifax will not be contacting every person who was affected, but will send direct mail notices to those whose credit card numbers or credit report dispute records were accessed. For the millions of remaining victims of the hack, there are several steps the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the company recommend taking to ensure you are not left more vulnerable to identity theft and to prevent your information from being used by criminals in the future.  

First, Equifax recommends that consumers sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection, even if you were not affected by this breach. The company is providing free service for one year through its TrustedID Premier package. To enroll, select the Potential Impact tab and enter the required information. Alternatively, you can call Equifax’s designated call center at 866-447-7559.

Second, place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert puts creditors on notice that you may be victim of identity theft and alerts them to notify you before new accounts are opened using your personal information. You can place an alert on your report for free and obtain free annual credit reports.

Third, consider a long-term credit freeze on your account. Unlike fraud alerts, a credit freeze completely takes your credit out of circulation and prevents potential creditors from accessing your credit report.  Equifax is waiving the fee for placing a credit freeze for a short period of time. You can also place a credit freeze on your account with other credit reporting companies like TransUnion or Experian.

Finally, the FTC’s website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft, offers information about how to protect yourself against fraud. The FTC noted that there are some red flag warnings of identity theft for consumers to be aware of:

  •          You see withdrawals from your bank account that you do not recognize;
  •          You do not get your bill or other mail
  •          Merchants refuse your checks
  •          Debt collectors call you about debts that are not yours
  •          You see unfamiliar accounts, charges, or other activity on your credit report
  •          A health plan refuses coverage because you have reached your benefits limits or your medical claim is denied because records shows a condition that you do not have
  •          The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed under your name or that you have income from an employer that you do not work for

Protecting your identity requires that you remain vigilant, even if you do not believe your information was compromised from the Equifax hack. Credit experts recommend monitoring your credit even beyond the initial monitoring period, especially if sensitive personal information, like a Social Security number, was obtained. Hackers show no signs of stopping; therefore it is important for consumers to think beyond the free monitoring period and consider enrolling in a monitoring service on an on-going basis.

If you have any questions regarding the Equifax data breach, please contact BHGR Law at 303-402-1600.

 

For More Information:

FTC Consumer Information Blog:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do

Equifax: Important Consumer Information:
https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com

Freezing Your Credit Report:
http://www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance/?/CreditReportAssistance

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This article is intended to provide general information and, therefore, should not be treated as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.