One of the three major USA credit bureaus, Equifax, has been hacked, and they say that that means that an estimated 143 million US consumers have now been exposed to the threat of identity theft. "We all just have one", said Denise Groene, state director with the Better Business Bureau. The data includes Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver's license numbers and credit card numbers.
First, the company waited months to alert the public after first discovering the breach on July 29. It is important to note that a consumer does not need to have used Equifax for their data to be exposed to these hackers.
But what if you never had an account with Equifax? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a self-reported list of the companies. A freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it almost impossible for someone to open a new account or line of credit in your name. O The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Equifax's stock has fallen by more than 20 percent since the breach, "losing its shareholders almost $4 billion in market capitalization".
Both urged people to go to a web portal created by Equifax - equifaxsecurity2017.com - to see if their information was affected.
Almost half of all Americans may be impacted by the Equifax breach. Madigan is working on changing the law to prevent the credit companies from charging for credit freezes.
Here is a link to the FTC's identity theft page.
Be aware that because your credit history is tied to your Social Security number, getting a new number could indicate to some companies that you don't have a credit history.
Duncan said she has called Equifax several times to put a freeze on her credit file but every time she is prompted to give her personal information she is told the request can't be processed. "There is a very good chance if your information wasn't compromised and stolen in the Equifax breach, it has been out there at some point", said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
But once you secure the loan, experts said follow their blanket advice for everyone - freeze your credit indefinitely.