MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - An estimated 143 million Americans. More than 40 percent of the United States adult population.
That's how many people's information may have been compromised in the hack of Equifax's data files, according to the credit bureau. In its news release, Equifax said the "...names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's license numbers" may have been compromised. The release continued: "In addition, 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 were accessed." The company's release said unknown hackers used an unidentified, American-based web application to access the files.
My files are among them. I checked. Equifax confirmed it.
Concerned? You bet. Panicked? Not at all. Ask any banking, IT or consumer protection source: data breaches are a dime a dozen these days. It's just that this one happens to be of one of the three companies that maintain our credit reports. We have no choice but to trust Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to be the custodians of our credit information, and we have to accept that if the databases of a retail giant like Target or a web colossus like Yahoo can be hacked, so can the credit bureaus.
Equifax has set up a secure site where consumers can determine if their information was potentially compromised: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/.
On the secure site, there is a clause that claims anyone who signs up for the monitoring service waives their right to be part of a class action lawsuit against equifax. THIS IS NOT ACCURATE. Despite the clause being there, the company cannot enforce that clause.
There are such things as mandatory arbitration clauses, but they must be disclosed in certain ways. An implied consent to one by enrolling in a free service that has been offered by an entity due to an admitted fault of liability is NOT one of those ways. The New York Attorney General already said the clause in "unacceptable and unenforceable."
Watch the video below as Andy walks you through the process of finding out if you're information has been compromised:
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the button labeled "Potential Impact." On the next page, click "Check Potential Impact." You will be prompted to submit your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number so that the system can connect you with your data files.
It's OK. Go ahead. Remember, Equifax is one of the three credit bureaus. It already has your Social Security number. It just needs to connect you with your files in order to figure out if yours were accessed.
When you do that, you will get to a page that will either reveal your files were not compromised or confirm your files were potentially compromised. You will then be asked if you want to enroll in Equifax's offer of a 12-month free credit monitoring service. Do it.
"Absolutely take it," said Randy Hutchinson, president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South and a former banker for First Tennessee. "You'll get some early notice to see if accounts have been opened in your name fraudulently or something else is happened and get a jump on getting the problem fixed."
When you enroll, you will be sent to a page that requests you come back on a specified date to a specified link for Equifax's Trusted ID Premier monitoring service to complete your enrollment.
Once you're enrolled, you should check your credit report from each of the three bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. That is the only site for guaranteed accurate, free and reliable credit reports.
The Federal Trade Commission also recommended these steps:
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
- Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- File your taxes early as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.