More than 143 million Americans have had their sensitive personal information put at risk in one of the largest data breaches to ever occur in the United States.
The data was exposed at Equifax, one of the top three credit reporting agencies in the country.
Between May and July 2017, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and even driver’s license numbers were accessed.
In addition, the hack compromised 209,000 people’s credit card numbers and personal dispute details for another 182,000 people.
Compared to other data breaches that have occurred in the past few years, this one is different for one immense reason – those who had their information stolen don’t necessarily have to be customers.
Anyone who has run a credit score between May and July 2017 could be at risk.
To put it simply, the scope of this breach is immense.
What makes matters worse is the company knew about the data breach six weeks prior to publicly announcing it and purchased an identity protection service – ID Watchdog – two weeks after the company was made aware of the breach, but a month before they informed the public that their customers’ data had been breached.
Unfortunately, you cannot simply cut ties with Equifax.
The size of the breach is so astronomical because it does not just affect Equifax’s direct customers.
The company is one of only three major credit bureaus in the United States.
A large portion of consumer credit scores are run through Equifax.
Thus, if you have run a credit score check in the past few years for any number of reasons – applying for a loan, credit card, job, car, home, or any other process involving running a credit score – this breach likely affects you.
For most of these processes, banks, loan offices, auto dealers, and retailers run your information.
You likely would not know whether Equifax was used.
As more details emerge, it is important to pay close attention to your financial activities.
The following tips could protect you against the breach:
Privacy and personal data is an issue that has become more controversial over the years, and the Equifax data breach is yet another example of the disastrous effects a breach can have on individuals.
Equifax will send mailed notices to any customer whose credit card numbers or dispute records were accessed, but they will not be personally contacting every individual who has been breached.
Equifax is now offering a year of free monitoring and protection to customers – but it could be a ploy for the company to benefit from customers that forget to cancel their enrollment.
Equifax's free monitoring and protection services are offered for one year.
To be eligible for the services, users are required to create an account and include billing information.
Users must cancel the account after one year or they are subject to be automatically charged for Equifax auto-renewal subscription the following year.
Equifax's free monitoring and protection services include an arbitration clause - a boilerplate contract that could protect the company from future lawsuits.
As of October 4th, Equifax announced an additional 2.5 million account breaches in addition to the initial 143 million account breaches announced on September 7th.
Three of Equifax's top executives offloaded a high volume of their personal shares in the company less than a week after the Equifax breach occurred – yet Equifax executives claim these were routinely scheduled trades and they were not made aware of the breach at the time.
Equifax Chairman and Chief Executive, Richard F. Smith, retired on Monday, Sept. 25 in the wake of the Equifax breach.
Smith had been CEO for 12 years.
Although his retirement as CEO is effective immediately, Smith will take on the role of an 'unpaid advisor' to assist in the CEO transition.
An Equifax board member, Mark Feidler, will take over as the company's non-executive chairman.
Although Equifax announced the initial account breaches in a September 7th press release, the company was made aware of these breaches as early as July 29th.
Equifax chose to keep the information private.
Unfortunately for the millions of American consumers affected, this means that for more than six weeks, the attackers had the opportunity to use stolen personal information to take out loans, open accounts, and credit cards, make purchases, and commit identity theft.
Currently, the number of lawsuits against Equifax is growing throughout U.S. courts in response to the company's negligent actions.
TorHoerman Law was at the forefront of this litigation being one of the first firms to file an Equifax lawsuit in Illinois.
TorHoerman Law is currently not accepting Equifax lawsuit cases.
If you have questions, please contact us.
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