By now, you've already heard about the massive data breach reported by Equifax, one of the nation's three credit reporting bureaus. It's larger than the scale of Yahoo's 2016 data breach, and it affects 143 million Americans.
Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and even driver's license numbers are now in the hands of hackers. More about this down in this posting including how you are now vulnerable.
Equifax breach links
We've been following this breach closely, and have already shared tips on how to see if your information was compromised, as well as information on why signing up for Equifax's free year of credit monitoring isn't a good idea. But we can't ignore the fact that news of this data breach is making people angry.
Rightfully so. We trust these companies with our most sensitive information, and time after time, they fail to protect us.
We now know that the breach at Equifax took place between May and July and that the public was only just notified that their personal records were compromised. That means hackers have had a head start to use the information they've stolen for other schemes and to steal our identities.
To say, "We're sorry," Equifax offered anyone impacted a free year of credit monitoring. But, that's not really an effective way to protect yourself from possible threats.
If history serves as any indication, hackers often hold on to your information for years before trying to exploit it. This makes it more difficult for law officials to pinpoint which data breach the information came from, and who might be involved.
Note: Rumors are spreading about Equifax's Terms of Service for its free year of credit monitoring. No, signing up does not waive your rights to join a class-action suit against the company. Click here to see that and five other fact-checked myths about this data breach.
How to take action
Let's review the facts.
Equifax, the giant consumer credit reporting company, has suffered one of the largest data breaches on record.
As many as 143 million American’s personal information including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some drivers licenses, has been accessed by cyber criminals. In addition, Equifax is reported as stating that credit card numbers for 209,000 Americans were exposed, as well as 182,000 U.S. Customers (presumably customers of Equifax and not consumers).
The exposure and criminal access to your personal information can have serious, and possibly permanent effects on your ability to obtain credit, buy a house, get a job, get clearance for work with the government, including in a sensitive position. Criminals may create a digital version of you, using your credentials, and secure credit, mortgages, title fraud, or even commit crimes and provide your personal information to law enforcement.
Equifax also provides credit monitoring, and those who have been offered or use that service should be especially careful of possible fraudulent communications from cyber criminals.
If you listened to our podcasts, you may be familiar with The Abbott Law Group. They have worked on a number of cases regarding our privacy and security. Most notably, they were lead in the case of Hello Barbie and the recordings of children playing with the toy left on an unsecured server.
We heard from them and they are counsel to a growing number of individuals affected by the Equifax breach, and are happy to answer any questions you may have about your legal rights and the pending class action lawsuits. You may contact them at email@example.com for a prompt response.
If you live in California or New York and don't have the money or energy to hire a lawyer to take on your case, there are actually many alternative options.
For starters, a chat bot created by Joshua Browder, a computer scientist, lets consumers enter in their basic information and fills out all the paperwork you'll need to submit a lawsuit for your jurisdiction.
Maximum damages range between $2,500 if you line states like Rhode Island and Kentucky or you can get $25,000 if you live in Tennessee. For more information, click here.
One of the primary class action suits to have been filed so far is being represented by attorney Michael Fuller in Oregon. The plaintiffs are asking for $70 billion in damages. For more information, click here.
You can also Google "How to sue Equifax [location]" to pull up any class action lawsuits that are being filed in your jurisdiction.
Last count, there were close to 50 different class action law suits against Equifax. You won't get rich by participating in one, but you might make a few bucks for the company's breach of your personal data.
One more thing before you go
Now's a good time to take steps to prevent some criminal from stealing your identity. We have the steps you need to do this in the free tip below. Do it now while you're thinking of it.