Equifax just reported a major cyber security breach involving the theft of 143 million Social Security numbers. Hopefully yours wasn’t numbered among them, but it’s very possible that it was. Learn more about how dangerous this is here.
Equifax is a credit-reporting agency that you have most likely worked with at some time in your life. In fact, its one of the biggest consumer credit-reporting agencies, along with Experian and TransUnion. And they just got hacked.
How many more warnings do we need? America, this is your captain speaking. The seatbelt light has been turned on, we ask that you please return to your senses and employ better cyber security!
Here is the worst part: It very likely affected you, and it happened 6 weeks ago. In July. The sensitive data that you shouldn’t share with anyone, like your credit card number and your social security number, could’ve easily been stolen. And not just someone’s, yours. How? Because around 143 million Americans were affected. That’s almost half the population!
What’s the worst that could happen? CNNMoney interviewed experts in cybersecurity, and reported back the following:
“If a cybercriminal maxed out a credit card in your name, you’ll have a very difficult time passing a credit check. Good luck getting a new cell phone, a student loan, a car or a mortgage. If a data thief took out a prescription using your identity, that goes on your medical record. That could seriously screw up your ability to get treatment at a hospital or from your pharmacy, particularly if the fraudster obtained medicine that counteracts with yours. If someone gets a driver’s license in your name and runs a red light or gets a speeding ticket, you’re on the hook. The criminal’s not going to pay it — and soon enough there could be a warrant out for your arrest.”
Bills for medication you didn’t take, fines for laws you didn’t break, loans for cars you didn’t buy, they could all become your responsibility without proof that it’s fraud.
And proof is harder to find than it seems. Especially if you haven’t been collecting it for the past 6 weeks.
So we’re all mad at Equifax, I know. How do we know for sure if we are affected? Equifax announced they will mail a notice to anyone affected, but who knows? Maybe they hacked your account and changed your address. The expert advice is to freeze your credit for now. Inconvenient if you need to apply for a loan or credit purchase, but worth losing everything. Be vigilant, and constantly check your credit card statement for fraudulent charges.
It’s pointless to get a new social security number, that might just mix things up more. Instead, start looking for ways to build up your own cyber security. Thankfully, if something adverse does happen, it’s such a large breach, and probably so common, that credit companies will be more understanding and willing to work with you. At least we hope.
The bottom line is that everyone is at risk. Cyber crime has the potential to hurt anyone, and everyone needs to be prepared. Get started now by following some great tips, or by learning more about how to protect yourself and your business here.