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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.
On March 1, 2018 Equifax announced that they had identified an additional 2.4 million U.S. consumers whose partial driver’s license information was stolen during the original breach.
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 147.9 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.
How Does the Equifax Fraud Alert Work?
If you’ve been or suspect you’ve been affected by the data breach, it’s important to place an initial free 90-day Equifax fraud alert on your credit file. All you have to do is fill out their simple online form to place the alert. Equifax will forward your alert request to the two other major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, so you don’t need to contact each of them separately.
If you want to extend your fraud alert, you’re required to fill out an extension form and fax or mail a valid police report, law enforcement agency report, or US Postal service report that alleges mail theft. You also must provide a photocopy of one valid form of identification (SSN Card, Driver’s License or Pay Stub with SSN) AND one proof of address (Rental Agreement/House Deed, W2 Form or Pay Stub with Address).
What Is an Equifax Security Freeze?
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. Just be aware that it can take up to three business days to unfreeze your credit report.
What Is Equifax Lock & Alert?
With Equifax’s new Lock & Alert tool, you can quickly lock and unlock your Equifax credit report from your computer or smartphone to help protect against identity theft. Lock & Alert is entirely free, and your report will be unlocked immediately with a simple click or swipe. Equifax will send you confirmation alerts every time you lock or unlock your report.
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?