Equifax, one of the three credit monitoring services, admitted recently that hackers gained access to the sensitive identify and financial information in their database for 143 million people (44% of the U.S. population). The hackers exploited a website weakness from mid-May to July. Equifax learned of the intrusion on July 29th but did not disclose the information to the public until 40 days later on September 7th. The credit breach is about as bad as you could expect a breach to be. Much of the data acquired is timeless information that could be used for years.
What information may have been impacted?
The information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. Criminals also accessed credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers. As part of our investigation of this application vulnerability, we also identified unauthorized access to limited personal information for certain UK and Canadian residents. We have found no evidence that personal information of consumers in any other country has been impacted.
Because Equifax’s database includes your credit card numbers and these may have been exposed in the breach, we suggest that you get new credit card numbers for all of your accounts. Here is how to make that happen:
- Call each card. Take each of your credit cards, turn them over, and call the number on the back of the card. Explain to them, “Because of the Equifax credit breach, I would like you to treat my credit card number as having been stolen and send me a card with a new number.” There should be no fee for this! If they try to assess a fee remind them that your credit card was compromised by Equifax, not by your negligence.
- If you have more than one card, you may not want to cancel them all at once. After the old credit card has been cancelled and before you have received the new credit card you may need to have a credit card for convenience. Additionally, some automatic payments may fail.
When the new card arrives…
- Make a list of your new cards. When they arrive, make a list of credit card numbers and the phone numbers to report them stolen if your wallet were to go missing. Keep this list in a safe place. Once your wallet has been stolen it is difficult to remember all the cards which might be missing and impossible to know who to call.
- Make a list of all the places where you are using a credit card for automatic payments. This is an important list to keep up to date. Some automatic payments may only happen once a year. And when your credit card is compromised, you may need to change it for every automatic payment.
Additionally, to be safe, consider that all your information is out there in the hands of criminals:
- You may want to consider placing a "credit freeze" with all 3 credit reporting bureaus (Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax). Placing the credit freeze will be a hassle at times as you'll need to give permission to your lender each time you want to run credit or open a credit account.
- Consider using a credit monitoring service such as LifeLock or All Clear.
- Run a free credit report. This can be done at https://www.annualcreditreport.com. You get one free report per bureau per year. When you get it, look it over for any accounts that have NOT been opened by you, and take action immediately.
We recommend that you use a password vault such as LastPass to store credit card numbers and other information such as the phone number to cancel the card. Create a master password that's virtually unbreakable by using a string of 3 to 4 memorable, but random, words and throw in a few symbols.
As always, we're here to assist you in any way possible!