Equifax Data Breach: What You Need To Know
On September 7, credit monitoring company Equifax announced that it suffered a massive data breach, initially affecting 143 million U.S. consumers. Money expert Clark Howard called it the “worst data breach in the history of the modern era”.
Equifax Breach: What Happened
According to Equifax, the breach occurred in mid-May, but only discovered it in July, almost two months later. It took the company another month to publicly disclose the breach. Hackers used a U.S.-based application to access consumers’ personal files. The thieves were able to access consumers’ names, addresses, credit card information, social insurance numbers and even driver’s license numbers in some cases.
Not The First Breach
Bloomberg reports that it was actually the second time this year that Equifax had been breached. The first incident occurred back in March, and according to one of Bloomberg’s sources, it involved the same hackers as the subsequent one. Equifax, however, states the two breaches were unrelated.
In both cases, Equifax consulted Mandiant, a digital security company. After their forensic investigation, Mandiant stated that 2.5 million more Americans may have been affected by the breach as well. This brings the total number of consumers affected by the breach to 145.5 million.
Canadians Are At Risk, Too
It was previously thought that around 100,000 Canadians were at risk of the massive breach. However, since Mandiant’s investigation, it appears that 8,000 Canadians may have been affected as well.
In any case, anyone affected by the breach is now at risk of being a victim of identity fraud and theft. Hackers have the information they need, and they choose to use it whenever they want, whether in a few weeks or even years.
Have You Been Hacked?
If you’re suspecting whether or not you’ve been affected by the Equifax breach, you can:
- Check your personal information here
- Call 1-866-447-7559 to ask for more information
If you do find that your personal information has indeed been impacted by the breach, here’s how you can protect yourself:
- Constantly monitor your credit score: There are a number of free credit monitoring sources available, such as CreditKarma or Mogo. Should you notice that your credit score has dropped from one month to another, this would be a red flag that something happened.
- Freeze your credit files: This will prevent hackers from using your personal information. Freezing your credit is the surest way to protect yourself from identity theft and fraud.
- Check your bank and credit card statements: Keep a close eye on your statements, and report any suspicious charges.
- Change your password: Alert your bank about the breach, and strengthen your password with a two-factor authentication.