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Equifax Data Breach
Information about the breach, how it might affect you, and what you can do to help protect your data
The Equifax credit reporting agency announced on September 7, 2017, that personal information of as many as 143 million consumers may have been compromised by hackers. Equifax says the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017. Hackers may have gained access to Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and legal names—information that hackers could then use to commit identity fraud. Additionally, hackers may have accessed some 209,000 credit card numbers and the personal information contained in sensitive documents belonging to 182,000 people in the U.S. Equifax is one of the three credit bureaus that collect data on how well consumers pay their bills and manage credit, which impacts everything from whether you get that home loan to the price you pay for auto insurance.
The following web links and articles provide useful information about the breach, how it might affect you, and what you can do to help protect your data. Please note that this story is still unfolding, so please refer to current information and recommendations as they become available from your financial advisor, Loan Officer, credible online publications, and other reliable sources.
- Federal Trade Commission, “The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do,” Sept. 8, 2017.
- Consumer Reports, “How to Lock Down Your Money After the Equifax Breach; Don't panic. Follow these 4 steps to protect your assets and credit,” Sept. 12, 2017.
- CNN Money, “Equifax data breach: What you need to know,” Sept. 10, 2017.
- Academy Mortgage, “Q & A about the Equifax data breach: How it might affect you and what you can do to help protect your data,” Sept. 14, 2017:
- How might this Equifax data breach affect borrowers who are applying for an Academy Mortgage home loan? A person who has obtained unauthorized access to your personal information—which is identity theft—could try to use that information to apply for a credit card in your name and make purchases, which could have a negative effect on your credit score and your ability to obtain a home mortgage.
- How can I find out if my data was part of the Equifax breach? Because the breach potentially affected virtually all U.S. adults who have a credit card, auto loan, or home loan, you should assume that your data was breached. Even if it wasn’t breached, you’ll want to be aware of protective steps to consider taking, going forward (see no. 4 below).
- If I’m an applicant for an Academy home loan and my credit score has been negatively affected by this breach, what should I do? Can Academy help me? Contact your Academy Loan Officer immediately and he or she will help you start the process to rebut the negative information—i.e., demonstrate to the credit reporting agencies that the negative information is false—so that your accurate credit information is restored and your loan can go forward.
- Going forward, what steps can I take to help protect my data? This still-unfolding topic is being addressed by many publications, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and local newspapers. You may want to consult your financial advisor about taking the following steps, among others:
- Watch your credit report, bank statements, and investment accounts closely to spot anything suspicious. Check your credit report often. You can get a free one from each of the three agencies each year, so you can check one free every four months. Get them only through the federally authorized annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
- Consider freezing your credit, which means placing restrictions on who can view your credit report. Applying for housing, checking accounts, or new credit cards can all involve a credit pull by potential landlords, mortgage lenders, or banks. If you prevent them from pulling your credit, it will frustrate the identity thieves who need these organizations' approval to open fake accounts using your stolen identity. Freezing your credit comes with a $5 to $10 charge for each credit bureau.
- Be cautious, be aware. Toughen up your passwords. Sign up for alerts by text or email that show activity on the accounts you already have. Be suspicious of emails or phone calls that ask for any type of personal information, including those claiming to be from Equifax or companies you have an established relationship with.