Equifax has revised its estimate for the number of people who have been potentially affected by its recent data breach to 145.5 million, 205 million more than it initially reported. According to a report on Forbes.com, Equifax, which is one of three main credit reporting agencies in the United States next to Experian and TransUnion, stores a significant amount of highly sensitive personal and financial details about consumers.
Turbulent Time for Equifax
An unidentified group of hackers gained access to this information sometime between mid-May and July and stole data from names, birthdates and street addresses to credit card and Social Security numbers. On Monday, Equifax reported that no further damage has been done since July.
Equifax’s board has said it is investigating other members of its executive team including its chief financial officer and general counsel for selling stock after the breach’s discovery, but before it was disclosed to the public. The company is also facing a number of lawsuits for allegedly mishandling people’s personal information. In addition, it has been criticized for attempting to get consumers to sign arbitration agreements in exchange as a condition to receive free credit protection services.
What Consumers Need to Know
Experts are all in agreement that the best thing affected consumers can do is freeze their credit. It is important to understand what a credit freeze actually means. For example, it does not mean that all your existing credit cards will be frozen. A credit freeze basically prevents the bad guys from opening new loans or credit card accounts in your name. It has no impact on existing accounts.
Understand that the option of freezing or turning off your credit card account applies offered by some companies such as Discover and Wells Fargo, only freeze that particular account, not your entire credit bureau file. The information that was stolen from Equifax doesn’t include just credit cards, but also names, addresses, social security numbers and driver’s license information.
This is information that can be used to open new accounts through banks and other creditors. So you need to freeze your credit through all three major reporting bureaus, not just Equifax. Freezing only your Equifax file would be akin to locking your front door, but not your side door or back door. You never know through which door a thief might try to enter.
If you have been affected by the Equifax data breach, contact an experienced consumer attorney or class action lawyer to obtain more information about your legal rights and options.