In 2017, Equifax experienced a data breach that impacted nearly half of the United States. 147 million individuals had their personal information compromised, including their social security numbers.
With identity theft now as common as it is, this data breach exposed millions of individuals to personal financial risk. Equifax has now been ordered to pay out claims to the impacted customers.
The Equifax Data Breach
One of the most significant data breaches in history, the Equifax data breach was the result of a concentrated, criminal attack on Equifax’s databases. While the attack began in the middle of May of 2017, it wasn’t noticed for over two months, which gave criminal attackers ample time to collect the data that they needed. When the data breach was complete, a significant amount of information had been stolen: birth dates, social security numbers, home addresses, and even driver’s license numbers.
This is all the information needed to open a credit account or bank account. Credit card numbers were stolen for another 209,000 consumers, and 44 million British consumers and 8,000 Canadian consumers were also impacted. Moreover, the breach was a notable lapse in security. The cause of the breach was a vulnerability that had been patched out on March 7th, but because Equifax had not applied the patch months later, the vulnerability was still live in its system.
Due to the fact that this was a known vulnerability and Equifax did nothing to protect itself, it’s easy to see that the company itself was negligent in protecting its data. Equifax has subsequently been ordered by the FTC to pay up to $700 million to consumers who have been impacted by this data breach. If you were a part of the Equifax data breach, you can request a year of free credit monitoring. If you already have a credit monitoring service, you can request $125 instead.
And this isn’t just the $125 stipend available. Consumers are also able to make claims for the time that they spent clearing up any identity-related issues, as well as the direct costs of this identity theft. The cap on each individual consumer reimbursement is $20,000.
How to Find Out Whether You Were Impacted by the Data Breach
Equifax has provided a tool through which you can check your status. If you are discovered in the database, then your data has been breached, and you should start monitoring your credit and make a claim.
Analysts have noted that even if you haven’t had any direct damages from the Equifax breach, you should still file an honest claim. The consequences of the data breach could be upcoming, so it’s important to have a credit monitoring service in place. If you already have credit monitoring, a reimbursement from Equifax for your credit monitoring service will at very least indicate to the credit company that it needs to take security more seriously.
What You Should Do If Impacted by the Equifax Data Breach
You can file a claim with Equifax right now on their official website.
In addition to this, you should pull your credit report from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. Each of the three credit reporting bureaus allows you to have a free credit report once per year. Look for anything unusual on your report, including unusual requests for new credit.
Being impacted by the Equifax data breach means that your personal information is available online, and that means that someone enterprising can potentially use that information to open up new credit accounts. Once those accounts default (as they will), they will adversely impact your credit score. You will need to prove those accounts are not yours.
Individuals have until January 22, 2020 to file their claim with Equifax. Whether this will tighten security moving forward remains to be seen, but many high profile government agencies have experienced significant data breaches. For consumers, credit monitoring has become important: no one should assume that their data is safe at any time, and now that their data has been breached through Equifax, it can be stolen at any time. Once online, data never disappears.