I worked in the mortgage industry for several years and unfortunately one of my most memorable and painful experiences during that time is reviewing a credit report with a client who had no idea, until that moment, that their identity had been compromised and tens of thousands of dollars of fraudulent credit lines had been opened in their name. Getting the mess cleaned up can be a very long and frustrating ordeal. I don’t want to see any of my friends or clients suffer through that because of this data leak.
This security breach is unique in that the Equifax company is one of the three major credit reporting agencies and maintains a database of extremely sensitive information on nearly anyone who has ever bought a car, house, signed up for a cell phone, or opened a credit card in this country. The potential impact is 143 Million US Consumers. Considering that the total number of people currently living in the United States is 323 Million according to my Google Home Assistant… Its a big damn breach.
Click on the potential impact button. You can enter your last name and last 6 digits of your social security number to check to see if they currently suspect your information was compromised. Regardless of whether or not your information is currently listed as impacted, they are offering everyone the option of enrolling in their credit protection and security program free of charge.
The irony of providing Equifax with personal information to check and see if they may have exposed your personal information is not lost on me, but I believe this is currently the best course of action.
Quick stop at the soap box: There are reports that several high level corporate employees sold several million dollars worth of company stock in the days after the breach was discovered, but Equifax is currently saying that the employees had no knowledge of the breach at the time they initiated the sales. I could go on for awhile about whether I believe that the Chief Financial Officer wasn’t in the loop on a security event of this magnitude that had to have been making waves at the executive level within hours of the discovery… but lets focus on being proactive about securing your identity.
I detailed how to do an annual credit maintenance check for free in an earlier post here.
Relevant Text if you don’t want to scroll through the article:
You are entitled to review your credit report once every twelve months for free (read more about it at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports). Obtaining your annual credit report from http://www.annualcreditreport.com is a great place to start. Beware of impostor sites seeking to steal your information or charge you for something that the major credit agencies are required by law to give you for free once per year. You can always navigate to the correct site from the FTC.gov site I linked above. Check for inaccuracies and verify the credit lines that show up on your report are actually yours. Whether you are a first time buyer or have been a homeowner for years, this is a great tool to make sure your credit history is up to date and accurate.
The blunt truth is that you didn’t cause this problem but there is a significant chance you were affected and still need to deal with it. There was nothing you could have done differently to have prevented the leak. Having said that, no one is going to do anything to protect you from the impact. You have to do that yourself. Check to see if you were affected. Keep an eye on your credit reports going forward.