The Equifax Data Breach—and What You Should Do Now to Protect Your Personal Information

By Shane Cummings

You have probably seen reports in the news regarding the recent customer data leak at Equifax. What does this mean for you?

For background: Equifax is one of the three major American consumer credit reporting agencies, aggregating data on consumers and business worldwide. Equifax may collect and store data on consumers regardless of whether or not they have a direct business relationship, so it’s difficult to establish whether or not you are impacted directly by this incident.

On September 8, Equifax reported that hackers had gained access to their system, potentially impacting 143 million U.S. consumers. Information accessed in the breach includes first and last names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, driver’s license numbers.

Here are some important steps we recommend that you take as a result of the Equifax hack in order to safeguard your personal information.

  1. Determine if your data was included in the hack. Equifax has a website set up to help you determine if your personal data was included in the data breach:
  1. Set up fraud alerts for yourself at the three U.S. credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The alerts are designed to let you know if someone is attempting to use your personal information to open credit accounts in your name. Additionally, a conservative approach would include setting up fraud alerts on your credit and debit cards as well. Some credit card companies allow you to set up real-time email or text message alerts for large charges.
  2. Consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service. Equifax is offering a free year of credit monitoring as a result of the breach to all U.S. consumers. Other monitoring services are available, such as LifeLock. These services will attempt to flag any new accounts or credit lines that are opened in your name.
  3. Review your credit report. It’s a great idea to review this from time to time in case there are any entries on your credit report that need to be disputed. Don’t assume that the credit bureaus don’t make mistakes. If something is misreported and it impacts your credit history negatively, it’s in your best interest to get it corrected.
  4. If in doubt, change your passwords to any websites or accounts where you have sensitive data. It’s a great idea to use multi-factor logins wherever possible, especially your banks or financial institutions. And, due to the prevalence of hacking and email phishing attempts, we strongly recommend securing your social media accounts as well since any sensitive data online could be used in identity theft attempts. Hackers may be able to gain access to your accounts at financial institutions if they can answer the correct challenge questions.

We expect these types of cybersecurity incidents to continue indefinitely, so remaining vigilant with your personal information is essential. Password manager applications like 1Password or LastPass can do some of the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to set complex and unique passwords for all of your accounts, and creating a safe and easily accessible place to find them.

Please feel free to reach out to your service team with any questions.

Your Friends at Halbert Hargrove