Equifax, one of the three nationwide credit-reporting bureaus, announced Thursday that they were the victims of a data breach in which cybercriminals stole the information of nearly 143 million people. The data exposed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and ID numbers of some driver’s licenses. The credit card numbers of roughly 209,000 people were exposed as well as “personal identifying information of about 182,000 individuals involved in credit report disputes.”
How does it impact the FIT community?
What makes this breach unique is that not all people affected will be aware that they are customers of Equifax. When you apply to borrow money, from a credit card account to a student loan—even when you are listed as an authorized user on a credit card—your information is gathered by credit bureaus.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Equifax will be sending out emails to those customers who have been impacted. However, be extra cautious of emails claiming to be from Equifax or credit-monitoring companies. Only sign up for credit monitoring or input information on sites where you type in the URL; do not click on a link you receive in an email. Cybercriminals will be quick to try to exploit the threat to trick more people into exposing private data.
Everyone should be diligent and frequently check their credit, banking, and other financial accounts for unusual activity. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring to all those affected by the breach.
You may have heard about options to monitor and/or freeze your credit. In a nutshell, monitoring your credit means that you get alerted when someone makes an inquiry about your credit. This might happen if you switch phone carriers, for example. Freezing your credit means that no one can receive a credit report or open additional credit in your name without your specific approval in the form of a PIN. There may be fees for these services. Good discussions of those options appear at:
- Kiplinger, “Fraud Alert vs Credit Freeze”
- The New York Times, “Equifax’s Instructions Are Confusing. Here’s What to Do Now.”
- Clark.com, “Credit Freeze Guide: The Best Way to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft”
- For state-by-state details about fees and regulations surrounding credit monitoring and freezes, visit Equifax’s help page by clicking here.
Note: Some of these links point to websites of for-profit organizations. We don’t endorse the organizations or any advertisers that appear on their sites.
Where can you get more information?
If you have more questions, Equifax has set up a website at equifaxsecurity2017.com for consumers to see if their data was breached as well as a designated call center at 866-447-7559. Please be aware that you will be asked for your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
The coverage in the news has focused on America’s three largest credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There are at least two others you should consider checking to monitor and possibly freeze your credit: Innovis and PRBC. Links to their consumer sites are below:
The Division of Information Technology is dedicated to informing the community of the latest cybersecurity threats. Visit fitnyc.edu/cybersafe and stay tuned for emails from Cybersafe@fitnyc.edu for the latest from the Cybersafe campaign at FIT.
Be aware—and be cybersafe!
Questions? Comments? Email TechHelp@fitnyc.edu or call 212 217.HELP (4357).