Many of you have no doubt read about the Equifax data breach multiple times already. While we are all affected by breach fatigue to one extent or another, this breach should catch our attention. Why is this one noteworthy?
- Data Categories: Included in the exposed data were Social Security numbers and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.
- Size: 143 Million U.S. consumers had their data exposed. That means if you are a U.S. consumer, you have about a 50% chance of being affected by this breach, when taking into account that there were only about 324 million people living in the U.S. last year, and only a subset of those are likely categorized as “consumers.”
- Captive Audience: You can’t opt out of Equifax and there is no reasonable way to avoid being an Equifax “customer” in the future.
The FTC has an excellent article with instructions on what we should do to protect ourselves and our families, as does my colleague Brian Epstein from the Institute for Advanced Study with the article What I’m doing about the Equifax Breach. My concise version is as follows:
Assume that your Social Security number, including the Social Security number of your children has been stolen already, perhaps multiple times. Don’t give up trying to protect it, but with that reality in view, make efforts to detect and prevent unauthorized use of your personal information. Here are three tangible steps you can take:
- Enroll yourself and your family in the free credit monitoring offered by Equifax, or pay for a third-party offering which provides financial support if you are a victim of identify theft.
- Put a credit freeze in place for your minor children, and consider doing so for yourself and other adult family members as well.
- Look for bank accounts and credit cards that offer $0 liability for instances of fraud.
No breach news is good news, but let’s try not to lose sight of how we are affected when there is a major headline like this one.
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