The Equifax data breach: what you can do to protect yourself

In September, the credit-reporting bureau Equifax fell victim to a data breach that affected approximately 143 million Americans.

Names, social security numbers, birth dates, and other sensitive information were all exposed as a result of the hack.

According to Equifax, cyber criminals also gained access to the credit card numbers of approximately 209,000 U.S. customers and personal identifying information of an estimated 182,000 U.S. customers involved in credit report disputes.

Below are a few tips you can employ to protect yourself if you or a member of your family was affected by the hack.

  1. Put a freeze on your credit: This is designed to prevent a credit reporting company from releasing your credit report without your consent. A credit freeze prevents new credit inquiries by requiring an access code before a new account can be opened. For more information or to request a credit freeze, visit the Equifax website. Both TransUnion and Experian also offer customers the option to freeze their credit.
  2. Turn on two factor authentication: This requires two forms of identification to verify identity (facial recognition, digital key, finger print scan, etc.). Many banking institutions, online sales, and other vendors offer this as an additional form of security.
  3. Keep an eye on your accounts: Monitor your bank account and credit statements. You may identify fraudulent activity and can notify your institution to freeze your account to prevent further loss.
  4. Delete or ignore questionable emails: Be cautious when opening emails you are not expecting. Attackers may attempt to send a phishing email in order to obtain log in credentials to your various accounts.
  5. Sign up for a credit monitoring service: Equifax is offering this service free of charge to those who may have been impacted by the data breach. Take advantage of the monitoring.
  6. Check your credit report, for free: Federal law allows a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Take advantage of this service and get a free copy of your credit report.


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About the author

Brennan Meagher

Brennan Meagher is a communications coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her at 706-446-4806 or bmeagher@augusta.edu.