The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland Attorney General, Brian Frosh, authored a public letter to Richard Smith, the CEO of Equifax. Frosh expressed concern about how 143 million Americans have had their private personal data exposed by hackers. Frosh expressed the anger that many of Maryland's 3 million people feel that a company who specializes in maintaining credit reporting data and sells credit monitoring and identity theft protection services has such a massive breach.
Frosh also requested that the company improve communication with the public and accused them of attempting to profit from the incident. Equifax had recently announced the breach, which was said to have occurred between May and June, potentially allowing criminal access to names, social security numbers, birth dates, state driver's license numbers and more.
For 209,000 individuals, their credit card account information was potentially accessed. In addition to the U.S., consumers in Canada and the U.K. are potentially impacted. Many fear that they will find that their information was used to establish new credit accounts or other concerns associated with identity theft. The Washington Post explained that personal data may be potentially sold on “dark web” sites.
Equifax, together with Transunion and Experian, are the three primary credit reporting organizations. Those in the process of a major purchase that will be financed, such as a home, may encounter some problems in obtaining a mortgage that could potentially take many months to correct.
Terry Clemans, Director of the National Consumer Reporting Association, stated that he expects “a lot of damage” to ultimately be discovered stemming from this breach. Clemans worries that thieves will try to obtain driver's licenses in the names of victims and encourages people to freeze their credit report access.
Protective Steps to Take
The first step is to visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ to determine if your information was possibly exposed. From the site you will be prompted to enter your name and a portion of your Social Security number to access. Other suggested measures include:
- Check your credit report from all three major providers by visiting annualcreditreport.com
- For information on handling identify theft use Visit IdentityTheft.gov
- Credit freezes can prevent further damage
- Review financial accounts for purchases that you did not authorize
- Fraud alerts remind creditors to take extra steps to confirm your identity
- File your income taxes early to prevent someone attempting to obtain your refund payment
Situations have occurred with those who have obtained pre-approvals for a home mortgage that have unexpected calamities. Those who have had an offer accepted for a home purchase will typically have their credit report checked a second time by the mortgage lender. The report may indicate that new accounts have been opened with charges made that suddenly make your debt level much higher. This could lead to the mortgage company rescinding their offer of credit and prevent you from obtaining the home.