On September 7, 2017, major credit reporting agency, Equifax, announced a data breach that could have the potential to impact 143 million American consumers. The breach occurred from mid-May through July of 2017 and exposed personally identifying information to the hackers. We’ve compiled some frequently asked questions to help you better understand how this breach may impact you, as well as some actions you can take to monitor and protect your personal information.
What information was compromised in the Equifax breach?
A. According to the Equifax consumer notice, the information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. 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 may have been accessed.
What is Equifax doing to help consumers determine if their information has been impacted?
A. Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. The services offered include copies of your Equifax credit report, and 3-bureau credit file monitoring with Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. It also provides the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, identity theft insurance, and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers – all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year.
Are there any extended protections for Massachusetts Residents?
A. Under Massachusetts law, you also have the right to obtain a police report in regard to this incident. If you are the victim of identity theft, you also have the right to file a police report and obtain a copy of it. You may also consider placing a fraud alert message or security freeze on your credit file by calling the toll-free telephone numbers for each of the national consumer credit reporting agencies.
If you have been a victim of identity theft and you provide the credit reporting agency with a valid police report, it cannot charge you to place, lift or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit reporting agency may charge you up to $5.00 each to place, temporarily lift, or permanently remove a security freeze.
Q: What is a security freeze?
A: A security freeze essentially blocks any potential creditors from being able to view or “pull” your credit file, unless you affirmatively unfreeze or thaw your file beforehand. With a freeze in place on your credit file, ID thieves can apply for credit in your name all they want, but they will not succeed in getting new lines of credit in your name because few, if any, creditors will extend that credit without first being able to gauge how risky it is to loan to you (i.e., view your credit file). And because each credit inquiry caused by a creditor has the potential to lower your credit score, the freeze also helps protect your score, which is what most lenders use to decide whether to grant you credit when you truly do want it and apply for it. To place a security freeze on your credit, contact the following credit bureaus:
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Experian Security Freeze
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
TransUnion Security Freeze
PO Box 1640
Pittsburgh, PA 15230
Innovis Security Freeze
Q: What’s the difference between a security freeze and a fraud alert on my credit file?
A: With a fraud alert on your credit file, lenders or service providers should not grant credit in your name without first contacting you to obtain your approval — by phone or whatever other method you specify when you apply for the fraud alert. To place a fraud alert, merely contact one of the credit bureaus via phone or online, fill out a short form, and answer a handful of multiple-choice, out-of-wallet questions about your credit history. Assuming the application goes through, the bureau you filed the alert with must, by law, share that alert with the other bureaus. The fraud alert lasts 90 days.
Q: Is there anything I should do in addition to placing a freeze that would help me get the upper hand on ID thieves?
A: Yes: Periodically order a free copy of your credit report. By law, each of the three major credit reporting bureaus must provide a free copy of your credit report each year — via a government-mandated site: annualcreditreport.com. The best way to take advantage of this right is to make a notation in your calendar to request a copy of your report every 120 days, review the report and report any inaccuracies or questionable entries when and if you spot them.
Q: What else should I do to monitor and protect my personal information?
A: It’s also a good idea to notify a company called ChexSystems to keep an eye out for fraud committed in your name. Thousands of banks rely on ChexSystems to verify customers that are requesting new checking and savings accounts, and ChexSystems lets consumers place a security alert on their credit data to make it more difficult for ID thieves to fraudulently obtain checking and savings accounts.
Q: What do I do if my identity has been stolen?
A: If your identity has been stolen, you need to take immediate action to limit the damage and protect your good name.
Download our free Identity Theft Emergency Repair Kit (PDF) — It provides step-by-step instructions and the necessary forms to help restore your identity. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this PDF document.
- Contact Blue Hills Bank at 800.361.6903 and other related vendors immediately. Close any accounts that may have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- Place a fraud alert and/or security freeze on your credit report with the four credit bureaus. Also request to review your credit report for suspicious activity. A copy of your credit report is available free each year from www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Equifax®: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian®: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion®: 1-800-680-7289
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
- File a report with local police.
Information sourced from:
Brian Krebs: http://krebsonsecurity.com/