Advice offered for dealing with Equifax data breach
Monitor accounts closely, area experts say

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

Sept. 14, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — After its security breach went public last week, consumer credit reporting agency Equifax quickly set up a website for consumers to check whether or not their information has been compromised.

If you can’t admit to a little bit of anxiety in waiting for the site to respond, then you may not realize just how significant this breach actually is.

“We learn of new data breaches every day,” said Partnership Bank CEO David Braaten. “The Equifax hack is different. The sheer breadth of the information compromised is cause for extreme concern.”

Unlike the series of Yahoo! breaches, which have cumulatively compromised the passwords and limited personal information from nearly 2 billion Yahoo! user accounts, the Equifax breach has the potential to be much more damaging to consumers.

According to the Wisconsin Bankers Association, the personal information of an estimated 142 million American consumers was exposed from mid-May through July. Hackers are thought to have accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers and dispute documents with personal information.

“On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of risk to consumers, this is a 10,” said Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst at Gartner Inc., an international research and advisory company.

So what can you do?

The first step is to determine if your information was exposed in the security breach. Equifax has set up a site that does this free with limited personal information. While making sure you are on a secure network, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Click on “Potential Impact.” From there, you will be asked to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

The Equifax site will then determine if your personal information was part of the breach. If you were, Equifax does give you the opportunity to register for one year of free credit monitoring and the site will provide you with a date to come back and enroll.

Do note that the terms of service for this program include an arbitration clause, the language of which bars those who enroll in the program to participate in any class-action lawsuits. You do have the ability to opt out of this clause, and instructions are included on the site.

The WBA is urging consumers to monitor their accounts closely and frequently, match their credit card statements with their receipts and balance their checkbooks monthly. Additionally, whether or not your data was compromised in the Equifax breach, the WBA notes that you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the the three major credit bureaus per year. By staggering these requests, you can check your credit report every three to four months for free.

“Data compromises will not suddenly go away,” said Braaten. “My best advice: get signed up for online services with your bank and credit card companies. By viewing your accounts online throughout the month, you’ll be able to detect problems when they occur as well as receiving text messages that will alert you to activity on your accounts.”