One of the gatekeepers to your most sensitive personal information was hacked, bigtime. Here’s how to protect yourself.
By now you’ve probably heard that Equifax, which as one of the three major U.S. credit agencies collect loads of sensitive data on consumers, suffered a massive breach, potentially affecting 143 million Americans. In the ongoing saga of rampant data breaches, it’s a stomach-churning twist, and it’s especially galling given that as one component of its business, Equifax sells credit monitoring and other services to detect whether identity thieves have pilfered your information.
Chances are high that the thieves got ahold of sensitive information on you or someone in your family, given that the breach touches almost half the entire U.S. population and nearly three-quarters of those who have a credit report on file, according to the National Consumer Law Center.
According to Equifax, “(c)riminals exploited a website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files.” That’s putting it nicely. From mid May through July, hackers had access to all the key information needed to steal identities: Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. Plus, credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers and dispute documents containing personal information of about 182,000 people were compromised.
Take these steps to see whether you are affected and to protect yourself in the aftermath.