Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus in the country, said on Thursday it suffered a major breach in late July. The breach enabled cybercriminals to access sensitive data on roughly 143 million consumers in the United States. This potentially exposed data includes names, addresses, birthdates, driver’s license data and Social Security Numbers, making this breach one of the most significant and damaging in recent history.
Equifax has taken action and launched a program to alert potentially affected consumers that their data may have been exposed. You can check on your data’s status at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and clicking on the “potential impact” button on the bottom of the page. Equifax is also offering a free year subscription to its credit monitoring service, TrustID.
Consumers are strongly encouraged to sign up for this credit protection service or to obtain a free copy of their credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to identify potentially fraudulent activity. Consumers can also ask each bureau to freeze their credit reports, which essentially prevents anyone — including legitimate consumers — from opening a new line of credit. If you suspect you’re the victim of identity fraud, immediately file a report with each credit agency.
The biggest takeaway here? This breach exposes one of the biggest risks in using single unique identifiers, like Social Security Numbers, as means of identification. If it can be memorized, it can be stolen — and that puts people like you and me at risk. There is a very strong need for a better national ID standard, but what form that’ll take is anyone’s guess.