Equifax Breach: Three Takeaways in First Four Days

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Federal lawmakers want congressional hearings, and reportedly the FBI is investigating.

"Equifax is a critical partner of the Internal Revenue Service, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration and other federal agencies that are the sources and recipients of the some of the most sensitive information affecting individuals, as well as the targets of the vast majority of identity theft fraud against taxpayers", the letter said.

It all amounts to a humbling, painful lesson for Equifax and its executives. And it isn't your fault that the company couldn't keep that data safe.

Since Social Security numbers were affected, the Attorney General's Office says there's risk of tax fraud. Off us. Up next, On Point: The Equifax debacle, and how to survive it.

You may have never used Equifax or even heard of it. If a person has different credit scores from different bureaus, the most likely explanation is that the scores were calculated using different models. Vexing, yes, but the remedy is simple.

Government at multiple levels see this breach as both a continuation of a very concerning lack of corporate data security, and a strong impetus that more regulation and oversight is required.

Change your passwords. Strong passwords that are regularly changed are a must for account protection. But if hackers swipe your Social Security number?

A less drastic response is to take Equifax's offered one-year of free credit monitoring to know if someone is using your information in fraudulent ways. And in June of this year, Anthem agreed to pay $115 million to settle litigation over a 2015 hacking that compromised about 79 million people's personal information. The company waited until September 7 to reveal the unauthorized access that occurred in mid-May and was discovered on July 29.

Equifax, the largest consumer credit reporting bureau in the United States, has been hacked, leaving almost half the country's population - roughly 143 million - vulnerable to identity theft. Hackers or their customers could potentially open credit cards or other forms of credit in someone else's name but change the home addresses on the accounts so that it's hard for us to detect. The Securities and Exchange Commission will nearly certainly look into why three Equifax executives sold stock before the company made its announcement, precipitating a sharp drop in share price.

Equifax is offering free credit monitoringfor a year so that people can react quickly to potential instances of identity theft.

143 million Americans may be impacted by the hack on Equifax. After all, that breach makes people vulnerable to thieves who apply for credit in victims' names with lenders who check applicants' credit histories only with Experian or TransUnion.

Cost isn't an excuse.

Equifax's data breach notification was officially made last week, almost six weeks after the intrusion, which exposed addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers, was discovered by the company. For the good of Americans, Equifax and its competitors have to do a better job of guarding information.

"Many consumers like having the flexibility to lock and unlock their credit files online in real-time rather than dealing with PINs, fees and wait times that may be associated with a freeze under state law", TransUnion said. They are, he said, "the plumbing of our financial system". Nor is turning to Equifax's rivals an assured way to ensure that consumers' data is better protected. Most have come up with new layers of security, for example, you can get an alert when a check over a thousand dollars cashes. They can heed that lesson and tighten their security.

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