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Equifax, one of the three main credit bureaus in the U.S., was hit by a massive data security breach in the Summer of 2017 that affected 145.5 million U.S. consumers. Hackers gained access to names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers, addresses and driver’s license numbers. In our updated Equifax reviews, we’ll give you the lowdown on the breach and tell you how you can protect your credit now and in the future.
About the Equifax Data Breach
Criminal hackers infiltrated Equifax servers between mid-May and July 2017 and gained unauthorized access to the personal information of 44% of the U.S. population. Equifax learned of the breach on July 29, 2017, but didn’t publicly announce it until September 7. What’s worse, Equifax admitted to knowing about the security flaw a full two months before hackers broke in.
On August 2, Equifax contacted Mandiant, a professional cybersecurity firm, to help them determine the exact affected data. The firm found that a series of breaches had occurred from May 13 through July 30, 2017. These breaches compromised the personal data of 143 million consumers (now estimates are at 145.5 million) and allowed hackers access to the credit-card data of 209,000 people.
In the aftermath, two senior computer security executives at Equifax retired, followed by its CEO, Richard Smith. Members of Congress requested a timeline of the breach as well as Equifax’s detailed efforts to limit the harm to consumers. On Oct. 2, Smith testified before the House Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee admitting that “mistakes were made.”
The Science Behind the Hack
The video below is a must-watch if you’ve been wondering how hackers got into Equifax’s servers.
What Is Equifax Doing for Consumers?
As part of its regular services, the company gives you the option of placing an initial 90-day Equifax fraud alert on your credit file. You can also place an Equifax security freeze on your credit file. This means that third parties can’t access your Equifax credit report, making it difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name.
Equifax is also offering a free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring product, called TrustedID Premier, through January 31, 2018. But we advise extreme caution in trusting an Equifax-owned product at this time. Signing up for TrustedID requires you to submit your Social Security number, date of birth, and other personal information. If you’re still interested, TrustedID Premier includes:
- 3-Bureau Credit File Monitoring: Credit file monitoring and automated alerts of key changes to your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit files.
- Equifax Credit Report Lock: Allows you to prevent access to your Equifax credit report by third parties, with certain exceptions.
- Social Security Number Scanning: Searches suspicious websites for your Social Security number.
- Equifax Credit Report: A copy of your Equifax Credit Report.
- $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance: Helps pay for certain out-of-pocket expenses if you’re a victim of identity theft.
Alternatives to Protect Your Credit
If you’re worried that thieves have stolen your identity, you should consider getting a credit freeze on your Experian and TransUnion credit files in addition to your Equifax file. This restricts other parties from accessing your credit reports. Read our guide on how to freeze your credit report to learn more and to determine whether this is the best option for you. We also recommend investing in a reputable credit monitoring service to protect your credit. Be sure to check out our reviews of the best credit monitoring services, which take the hassle out of monitoring your credit.
What experiences have you had with Equifax?