The Equifax data breach may be the worst data leak in human history. An estimated 143 million records were exposed to hackers. The victims included vast numbers of people in the United States, Canada, and the UK.
Is your identity compromised? Is somebody using your Social Security Number right now? Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about the Equifax data breach.
Equifax claims that its database was breached through a vulnerability on its website. Equifax, which is one of three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States – has a database containing the personal records of millions of Americans. Those records include sensitive information like your Social Security Number and other personal data.
An estimated 143 million personal records were exposed during the hack.
Although most of the victims are Americans, the hack also affected certain people in Canada and the UK as well.
When Did the Hack Occur?
One of the most worrying things about the Equifax data breach is that we don’t exactly know when it occurred.
Equifax learned about the hack on July 29. Meanwhile, the company didn’t publicly announce the hack until September 7.
The actual hack, however, took place between the middle of May and the end of July. Equifax hasn’t provided any more specific information.
What Information Was Leaked to Hackers?
Hackers exploited Equifax’s website vulnerability in order to gain access to 143 million personal records.
Sometimes, when these hacks occur, the attackers only gain access to encrypted data, or relatively harmless data like an individual’s email address.
With this latest hack, however, hackers stole extremely sensitive personal information, including:
- Social Security Numbers
- Home Addresses
- Some drivers’ license information
Meanwhile, an additional 209,000 consumers may have had their credit card numbers stolen during the leak, and 182,000 consumers may have had their dispute documents exposed.
If you were one of the consumers who had their credit card or dispute documents leaked, then Equifax will send a notice to your mailing address. Otherwise, however, it’s up to you to check whether or not your data has been exposed.
Were You Affected by the Equifax Data Breach? Here’s How to Check
If you’re an American with a credit card or any type of credit history, then you should assume that you were affected by the hack. This latest attack involved 143 million people – nearly half of the population of the United States. The best course of action, as an American consumer, is to assume you’ve been hacked and take appropriate action.
Option 1 (Not Recommended): Waive Your Right to Compensation and Use Equifax’s Trusted ID Program
Equifax has setup its own program to help people determine if they were affected by the hack. Their program includes a tool that lets you check to see if you were affected. You also gain access to a program called Trusted ID that may help prevent identity theft.
Unfortunately, there are some major issues with Equifax’s Trusted ID program.
First, you waive your rights to liability by enrolling in Equifax’s Trusted ID program. By signing up for Trusted ID, you will not be able to participate in a class action lawsuit against the company. Considering the class action lawsuit could involve 143 million plaintiffs, it could be the largest in history.
Second, there are reports that the tool may be broken. The tool responsible for checking if you were affected by the hack is providing incorrect information, according to some reports. Those reports state that the tool is filled with random results, randomly-generated names, and other serious errors.
Ultimately, Trusted ID shouldn’t be anybody’s first choice after the Equifax data breach. However, you can keep reading to find out how to signup:
Step 1) If you do decide to enroll in the program – risks and all – then you can start the signup process here. The multi-step process requires you to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security Number. Eventually, you’ll reach a page where you can determine whether or not you were impacted by the hack. Equifax will either let you know that you may have been impacted. Or they’ll let you know that you were not impacted (our team did the check, and we received responses for both options).
Step 2) Take note of your enrolment date. Equifax didn’t ask for your email address in the steps above, so you’ll need to write down your enrolment date.
Step 3) On (or after) your enrollment date, head to this page to continue the enrollment process.
The deadline to enroll in the program is November 21. Unfortunately, you can’t enroll in the program immediately: Equifax is staggering the signup process, which is why you’re given a date. Meanwhile, your identity could be being accessed fraudulently by hackers up to your enrolment date.
What is Trusted ID, Anyway?
The Trusted ID program is a premium service offered by Equifax. By going through the steps above, you’re signing up for a free, one year subscription to the program. It’s an identity protection service that actively scans the world for any fraudulent use of your identity.
The signup process never asks for your credit card number, so you won’t be automatically enrolled after one year.
Option 2 (Recommended): Use a More Trusted Identity Protection Service Like LifeLock
Equifax obviously can’t be trusted with consumer data. So why would you trust them to protect your identity for a year?
Trusted ID is a disaster. It’s also a bit of a scam: the company is offering free membership to the program, but you have to void your right to sue in order to sign up. With every new signup, Equifax is lowering its liability and reducing the number of people who could participate in a class action lawsuit.
Fortunately, there’s a better option: use a trusted third party service like LifeLock, which offers superior identity protection service compared to Trusted ID – and it has no connection to Equifax (or any credit bureau). It’s an independent entity dedicated to protecting your identity.
If you sign up for a LifeLock subscription, you can protect your identity and reserve the right to participate in the upcoming Equifax class action lawsuit (which, again, will likely be the largest class action lawsuit in history).
Benefits of LifeLock
Why sign up for LifeLock? The leading identity protection program has plenty of benefits, including:
- Provides copies of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion)
- Lets you lock your identity to prevent any usage of your credit or identity
- Monitors your three credit reports constantly for any unexpected changes
- Scans the internet for your Social Security Number, including the darknet and other sites that never appear on search engines
- Includes million dollar identity theft insurance
LifeLock is famous for its “million dollar protection” insurance. The company is so sure of its identity protection services that it will provide complete reimbursement (up to a million dollars) if your identity is used fraudulently while your LifeLock subscription is active.
How to Sign Up for LifeLock
Unlike Equifax’s Trusted ID program, signing up for LifeLock takes just minutes and can be done without leaving your computer.
Step 1) Visit the LifeLock signup page here, which has been setup specifically to address the Equifax data breach
Step 2) Click the “Start Membership” button and complete the quick and easy signup process
That’s it! Your protection begins immediately.
Alternatively, you can call LifeLock at 800-416-0599 to signup – although it’s not as fast as the online process.
Conclusion: Don’t Fall for Equifax’s Trusted ID Trick
Equifax is desperately hoping that consumers sign up for their Trusted ID service – which they’re dangling as a free annual subscription. If you sign up for Trusted ID, you’ll waive your right to any compensation from the data breach – and compensation could be significant, especially if your data is used fraudulently.
Waiving your right to sue is dumb enough. However, there are also reports that the Trusted ID service – including the identity checking tool – isn’t working correctly.
LifeLock is one of several alternative identity protection services available online today. You can sign up in minutes online. Your identity can start being actively protected within 15 minutes.
Whether you sign up for credit monitoring or not, be sure to check your credit report after this latest leak: hackers can be patient, and your SSN may not be used fraudulently until years in the future.