The Equifax Data Breach
September 7th 2017-Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus, was breached by hackers that gained access to company data and compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers including Social Security Numbers and Driver’s License Numbers. The attack on Equifax represents one of the biggest risks to personally sensitive information in recent years. If you have a credit report, the chances are greater than 50 percent that you were affected by the breach. In addition to Social Security Numbers and Driver’s License Numbers, hackers were able to retrieve names, birth dates, and addresses. Credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers were also stolen. So what’s next? What can you do to start resolving the breach if you were affected? Below are 6 steps to remedying the effects of this catastrophe.
You have the right to ask the nationwide credit reporting bureaus to place fraud alerts in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identify theft. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus. As soon as the agency processes your fraud, it will notify the other two, which means they must also place fraud alerts in your file.
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; transunion.com
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; equifax.com
An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days. An extended alert stays in your file for seven years. To place either of these alerts, a credit reporting bureau will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identify which may include your Social Security Number. If you ask for an extended alert, you will also have to provide an identity theft report. An identity theft report includes a copy of a report you have filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, and additional information a credit reporting bureau may require you to submit. For more detailed information about the identity theft report, visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
You have the right to free copies of the information in your file (your file disclosure). An initial fraud alert entitles you to a copy of all the information in your file at each of the three nationwide agencies, and an extended alert entitles you to two free file disclosures in a 12-month period following the placing of the alert. These additional disclosures may help you detect signs of fraud, for example, whether fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or whether someone has reported a change in your address. Once a year, you also have the right to a free copy of the information in your file at any credit reporting bureau, if you believe it has inaccurate information due to fraud, such as identity theft. You also have the ability to obtain additional free file disclosures under other provisions of the FCRA. See here.
You have the right to obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. A creditor or other business must give you copies of applications and other business records relating to transactions and accounts that resulted from the theft of your identity, if you ask for them in writing. A business may ask you for proof of your identity, a police report, before giving you the documents. It also may specify an address for you to send your request. Under certain circumstances, a business can refuse to provide you with these documents. See here.
You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector. If you ask, a debt collector must provide you with certain information about the debt you believe was incurred in your name by an identity thief like the name of the credit and the amount of the debt.
If you believe information in your file results from identity theft, you have the right to ask that a credit reporting bureau block that information from your file. An identity thief may run up bills in your name and not pay them. Information about the unpaid bills may appear on your consumer report. Should you decide to ask a credit reporting bureau to block the reporting of this information, you must identify the information to block, and provide the consumer reporting agency with proof of your identity and a copy of your identity theft report. The credit reporting bureau can refuse or cancel your request for a block if, for example, you don’t provide the necessary documentation, or where the block results from an error or a material misrepresentation of fact made by you. If the bureau declines or resends the block, it must notify you. Once a debt resulting from identity theft has been blocked, a person or business with notice of the block may not sell, transfer, or place the debt for collection.
You also may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to credit reporting bureaus if you believe the information is a result of identity theft. To do so, you must send your request to the address specified by the business that reports the information to the credit reporting bureau. The business will expect you to identify what information you do not want reported and to provide an identity theft report.
To learn if you were affected by the Equifax data breach please click here. If you have any questions or want to learn more on remedying the effects of identity theft you can email me at [email protected] To ensure you’re not breaching anyone’s privacy or rights when conducting screenings or background checks check out our blog “How to Handle FCRA Electronic Disclosure and Authorization Forms” here. For more great blogs and content please subscribe to our blogs here.