It’s a financial shocker — one of the largest credit reporting agencies, Equifax, has suffered a major data breach which potentially comprised the personal data of millions of people. It’s unknown how many people in New Jersey might be affected, but Equifax says as many as 143 million Americans could be at risk. The information accessed includes social security numbers, credit card accounts and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. The company says the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July. When a company entrusted with monitoring credit is itself the victim of a breach, the incident is especially unsettling.
There are several steps consumers should now take, including checking credit reports and closely monitoring finances. The New York Attorney General’s Office, which has opened a formal investigation into the breach, also notes that stolen social security numbers can lead to tax fraud, so consumers should pay attention to any correspondence from the IRS.
Equifax says it will send direct mail notices to consumers whose information was impacted in the breach.
Equifax has also set up a call center that consumers can contact with questions. That number is 866-447-7559. Additionally, Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information may have been been impacted. That website offers consumers credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. However, the Washington Post is reporting that by signing up on Equifax’s website, consumers may give up their legal rights.
The fallout from this incident has been swift. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Equifax. In Washington, the House Financial Services Committee has announced it will hold a hearing on the breach. And investors on Wall Street punished Equifax stock on Friday, sending it sharply lower.