What Happened, and Where We Go From Here
You’ve probably been hearing a lot in the news recently about the Equifax data breach, and that millions of Americans have been affected. This is, understandably, unnerving and frightening for anyone concerned about protecting their data and identity. At Stevens Pierce & Associates, CPA’S, we have years of experience helping individuals and small businesses manage their finances and accounting. We are here to help you understand what happened and learn what steps you can take the minimize the damage.
Equifax is a consumer credit reporting company. They compile financial and credit information about consumers, and this information determines your credit score. On July 29, Equifax discovered that information hackers had gained access to the personal information of 143 million Americans, as well as some people in Canada and the UK. The hacking was due to a mistake in one of their website applications, called Apache Struts. Through this application, hackers were able to access names, Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and in some cases, even driver’s license numbers. They were able to access this information from the middle of May through the end of July. Recently, Equifax released that the chief information officer and chief security officer of Equifax will be retiring.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you are one of the 143 million Americans whose personal information has been stolen, this means that hackers are able to steal your identity. They can open up new credit cards in your name. They can spend your money. They can apply for jobs or attempt to get loans, all while pretending to be you. All of this activity will drain your credit score, which can hold you back from getting a loan, making large purchases, etc. This is especially damaging for younger people or those with lower incomes, who don’t have the financial history or the finances in general to offset the consequences.
How to Protect Yourself
Unfortunately, if your information has already been stolen, the incurred damage cannot be reversed. However, there are steps you can take to determine if you have been affected, and then to minimize any further damage. First, you should go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/. You can enter your name and the last six numbers of your Social Security Number, and you will find out if your information has been exposed in the breach. Then, to receive a free credit monitoring service through Trusted ID Premier for a year, Equifax will give you a date on which you can enroll. Americans have access to free enrollment until November 17.
You should pay careful attention to your credit reports. Keep a lookout for any suspicious spending. You can freeze your credit, which will stop a thief from opening a new credit account in your name. You can also sign up for fraud alerts, which will let you know if someone may be using your information.
At Stevens Pierce & Associates, we understand that having your information stolen makes you feel violated, anxious and angry. Contact us today at 208-734-8662, and we will work with you to help you gain control over your personal data. Our accountants truly care about each individual client, and we want to help you have as much peace of mind as possible in the wake of this data breach.