Equifax revealed on Thursday that as many as 143 million Americans had their personal information exposed during a hack that took place sometime between mid-May and July 2017. This breach is one of the largest cybersecurity hacks to date.
The security breach placed at risk highly sensitive consumer information such as Social Security numbers, credit card information, names, birth dates, and addresses. Unlike other recent data breaches, such as the Target hack, those affected by the Equifax breach may not even know they're customers of the company.
Equifax is proposing that customers sign up for credit monitoring and identity theft protection through its free service called TrustedID Premier. To enroll and/or check whether you were affected, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the Check Potential Impact tab. You'll need to provide your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Once submitted, Equifax will advise whether you may have been affected. If you choose to enroll, each customer is provided an enrollment date starting earliest on Monday.
The catch to this service is that by enrolling you may be limiting your rights to sue and may be forced to arbitrate your disputes. However, you may opt out of the arbitration provision by notifying Equifax in writing within 30 days. Even if you fail to opt out, legal precedent may be on your side to circumvent the arbitration provision, which is why it is vital to discuss your rights with a consumer attorney.
This latest breach is yet another stark reminder to Nevada consumers that they must consistently monitor their credit profiles for fraudulent information and errors. Prevention and early detection are key elements to protecting your identity from data thieves. If you find out you may be a victim of this breach, you have rights under a federal law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. To assert these rights, you must alert the credit bureaus of the fraud using a police report and FTC affidavit. If the lenders and bureaus fail to update, you have the right to bring a federal lawsuit and to obtain credit correction along with damages and attorney's fees and costs.
Nevada is the 5th most vulnerable state for identity theft and fraud, according to a 2016 study by WalletHub. Many of those Nevadans affected by identity theft reside here in Las Vegas and Henderson. The study looked at factors such as the number of identity theft complaints filed by consumers within each state, and the amount of money taken by identity thieves.
To protect yourself against identity theft, remember to check your national credit reports (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) regularly. If you find errors or fraudulent accounts, you should file a police report and prepare an FTC Identity Theft Victim's Complaint and Affidavit. Send each of these reports to the credit bureaus via certified mail. The bureaus have 4 business days to block the fraudulent information and 30 days to provide you an updated and accurate report. If the bureaus and lenders fail to update your information completely, you have a legal claim against them in which you may receive monetary damages, attorney's fees and costs, and credit correction.
Other important security measures to protect against identity theft include: keeping your personal documents and information secure, checking bank statements regularly, and reporting suspicious bank activity immediately.