The Equifax data breach is believed to be the largest of its kind affecting more than half of the US population. The breach lasted from mid-May through July 2017 during which hackers stole over 140 million people's full names, addresses, social security numbers, and driver's license numbers among other information. This means that there is over 50% chance that someone living in the US can be affected by the Equifax data breach. Such a breach can facilitate identity theft crimes depending on why the information was stolen and what they intend to do with them.
Since the U.S. is not a monopolistic market, there is more than one company providing consumer credit information and transaction history. These include Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, and Innovis. They work on the basis of a grading system where every positive habit is rewarded and every negative one takes away from one's credit score. With ranges put in place to evaluate individual credit worthiness, the individual goal is to achieve as high of a credit score as possible.
As aforementioned, one of the largest companies in this business is Equifax. They have been around since 1899 and possess information on over 800 million people in the world. It originally started as a retail credit company, but soon became one of the largest credit bureaus around the 1960s. Nowadays, Equifax brings in over $3 billion in revenue and employs over 9,500 people.
This is why it comes as a shock that Equifax had one of the largest data breach scandals ever.
This Equifax credit reporting agency data breach has affected a lot more than just basic information about people. There are reports of as many as 209,000 credit card numbers being hacked. A major problem arising from this massive data breach is that most of these individuals whose information is stolen are not even Equifax customers.
This is because Equifax tracks everybody who might have applied for a loan, opened a bank account, and uses credit cards for purchases. Since the majority of Americans have used loans and credit cards to buy stuff, there is a high-risk of being affected by this breach without even having been a customer of Equifax.
A major concern for Equifax data breach victims is that stolen data can lead to a potential cyber or real-life crime potentially making the victim responsible and even arrested for the identity theft crime. This means that an individual could be accused of a crime many years from now because their information has been leaked and used for fraudulent purposes. Hackers can use the data to apply for loans, purchase products, and more.
Since there is a good chance that someone’s personal data has been compromised, there are several things that potential victims can do to protect themselves.
One should use the free online registry on the Equifax website to see if their information was exposed. If so, obtaining free credit reports would be necessary to keep an eye on one's credit activities to detect unknown transactions. Also, checking one's mail will be very important as new loan application confirmation might be sent there. Keeping up with all the mail means that one can potentially detect a fake loan application quickly. If criminal use a fake address in the loan applications to avoid apprehension, it is the creditor’s responsivity to verify that the address belongs to the applicant listed and validate any new addresses or changes to existing addresses on file.