It's been months since the massive Equifax data breach was revealed to the public. It's the largest personal information breach in history and it affects almost half of the entire U.S. population.
The consequences of this breach will be felt for a very long time since it involves Social Security numbers, names, addresses and other critical personal information. Unfortunately, with this kind of information stolen, those of us who were impacted by the breach will be dealing with it for the rest of our lives.
Well, prepare yourself, the worst just got worse. It turns out, as massive as it is, the Equifax data breach figures are even bigger than we originally thought.
New figures revealed
Equifax has released more details about the extent of the massive data breach that it suffered in July 2017 and it reveals that it is worse than previously reported.
The company submitted the report to the Securities and Exchange Commission and several U.S. congressional committees that are investigating the breach, following mounting pressure from several U.S. senators.
The credit reporting company originally said that the names, dates of birth, home addresses, and Social Security numbers of around 145 million Americans were exposed during the breach. It also disclosed at that time that a limited number of consumers had their driver's license and credit card numbers stolen.
That's enough information to compromise anyone's whole identity!
But are you ready for this? The recent report reveals new figures that are truly staggering.
It's getting worse
According to the report, aside from the 145.5 million Social Security numbers, around 17.6 million Driver's license numbers, 20.3 million phone numbers, and 1.8 million email addresses were also stolen in the breach.
Even scarier, hackers also managed to steal personal identity images from around 182,000 consumers who uploaded "dispute documents" to Equifax's site. These photos include thousands of driver's license images, Social Security and Tax ID images, and passport images.
In addition, other government-issued documents like military and state IDs plus resident alien cards were compromised.
Wow! The largest personal information breach in history just keeps getting bigger and bigger with each new revelation, it seems.
To further illustrate the extent of the Equifax data breach. Here's a breakdown of the new figures:
- Social Security numbers - 145.5 million
- Addresses - 99 million
- Gender - 27.3 million
- Phone Numbers - 20.3 million
- Driver's license numbers - 17.6 million
- Email addresses - 1.8 million
- Credit Card numbers - 209,000
- Tax ID numbers - 97,500
- Driver's license state - 27,000
Here's a list of what type of personal images the hackers stole:
- 38,000 driver's licenses
- 12,000 Social Security and Taxpayer ID cards
- 3,200 passports and passport cards
- 3,000 other documents, including military and state IDs and resident alien cards.
Rather than being lifted from a single database, the data apparently came from a number of different databases utilized by various Equifax web applications and payment portals.
The latest figures are also limited to U.S. consumers, even though Equifax stated that people in Canada and the U.K were also affected. This means the numbers could be even worse.
How to protect your identity
With almost half of the number of adult U.S. citizens exposed by the Equifax data breach, it's better to assume the worst and think that the hackers already have your information.
Chances are, if you live in the U.S. and you have a credit card, you are most likely affected. Here are ways to proactively protect yourself:
Keep an eye on your bank accounts
You should already be frequently checking your bank statements, looking for suspicious activity. It's even more critical when there is a massive data breach. If you see anything that seems strange, report it immediately. It's the best way to keep your financial accounts safe.
Set up two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication, also known as two-step verification, means that to log into your account, you need two ways to prove you are who you say you are. It's like the DMV or bank asking for two forms of ID. This is an extra layer of security that will help keep your accounts safe. Click here to learn how to set up two-factor authentication.
Change your passwords
Whenever you hear news of a data breach, it's a good idea to change your account passwords. This is especially true if you use the same credentials for multiple websites. If your credentials are stolen from a breach, criminals can test them on other sites to log into those accounts as well. Read this article to help you create hack-proof passwords.
Beware of phishing scams
Scammers will try and piggyback on data breaches like this. They will create phishing emails, pretending to be from the affected company, hoping to get victims to click on malicious links that could lead to more problems. You should familiarize yourself with what phishing scams look like so you can avoid falling victim to one. Take our phishing IQ test to see if you can spot a fake email.
Set up a credit freeze
If you suspect someone is already pretending to be you, you can lock your credit reports so that no one can open a new account in your name. How does this work? Lenders will consult your credit score before they start a partnership with you. If lenders can’t check those scores, no new accounts can be established. Click here to learn more about how to set up a security freeze.
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