By Debbie Gregory.
On September 7th, Equifax Credit Agency has revealed that a “cybersecurity incident” has potentially exposed the personal information of 143 million Americans
Equifax, one of the nation’s big three credit reporting agencies, experienced an online security breach. While a large number of American civilians could potentially be adversely impacted, active-duty service members are twice as likely to have their identities stolen.
“Stealing sensitive information about members of the military, particularly those deployed from their normal duty station, doesn’t just raise national security concerns,” said Consumer Federation of America senior fellow Rohit Chopra. “ It can also create financial nightmares for servicemembers and their families.”
What we know so far is:
- Criminals exploited a U.S.-based website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files
- Unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017
- Information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers
- Credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and certain dispute documents for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers were accessed
“Since active-duty service members frequently move due to Permanent Change of Station orders, this can make it even harder to quickly learn if they’ve had their identities stolen,” Chopra wrote.
All three major consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, each have a web page where service members can request an Active Duty Alert on their credit report. This will last for one year and is renewable.
Another step we all can take is a credit freeze. This allows you to seal your credit reports and use a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know and can use to temporarily “thaw” your credit when legitimate applications for credit and services need to be processed.
The added layer of security means that thieves can’t establish new credit in your name even if they are able to obtain your personal information.
Freezing your credit files has no impact whatsoever on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. You can continue to use them as you regularly would even when your credit is frozen.
The cost typically ranges from about $3 to $10 per person per bureau to freeze a credit report, although some states don’t charge a fee. On September 9th, Equifax tweeted that it will waive the fee for freezes for 30 days.