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14 September 2017

Equifax hack exposes county residents to identity theft

The mother of all breaches: 143 million Americans exposed

Equifax, one of the 4 national credit bureaus, recently announced that they were hacked. The breach exposed the names, addresses, social security numbers, and birth dates of over 143 million people. In some cases, driver's license numbers were also exposed. Here's what Jackson County residents need to know:

Am I affected?

Almost certainly, yes. Equifax tracks the credit rating of nearly every adult in the US, which includes nearly every adult resident of Jackson County.

What could happen?

The exposed information could be used by identity thieves to impersonate you and apply for credit cards or loans in your name, steal your tax refund, or commit other fraud. You would be liable for the debts they incur until you can convince creditors that your identity was stolen, which can be a time-consuming process. When the thieves default on the loans, your credit rating could be damaged. The thieves could also use the information against you directly using what they know about you to trick you into giving them money or access to your accounts.

What can I do about it?

  1. Sign up for Credit Monitoring. Equifax is offering their credit monitoring service for free to all affected consumers. Credit Monitoring doesn't prevent credit fraud, but it helps you quickly detect attempts to get credit in your name so you can take immediate action to limit the damage.
  2. Monitor your existing financial accounts. Watch your bank account and credit card statements closely for any unauthorized transactions. With many banks and credit companies, you can sign up to receive alerts by text or email when new transactions occur.
  3. Put a Security Freeze on your credit report: This action will actually prevent credit fraud, but it costs a bit of time and money to set up. A security freeze locks your credit scores so no one can access them. Banks won't issue a loan or credit card without checking your score first, so if a bad guy steals your identity, he can't use it to get a loan. The downside is you have to request a security freeze with each of the four credit bureaus, and each one will want $10 to set it up. In addition, if you want to get a new loan or credit card, you then have to manually unlock your credit report..
  4. Watch out for social engineering (tricking you with lies): Cyber attackers will take advantage of this incident and contact you directly via email, phone, or text message.  Their goal is to fool you by exploiting your fear of identity theft. They might impersonate a bank, collection agency, the IRS, or police.  They will reference the Equifax breach in an attempt to convince you that your identity has been stolen and demand that you give them access to your accounts so they can "protect" you.
  5. Report crime immediately: If you suspect that someone has stolen your identity, report it immediately to the credit bureaus and to your local police or the Sheriff. Promptly reporting the crime will help protect your rights. A police report will make it easier to convince creditors that you shouldn't be held liable for fraudulent purchases.

For more information, visit the Equifax breach information site at



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