Nearly a year ago, on September 7, 2017, Equifax announced one of the worst data breaches in history – so far. The Equifax data breach exposed the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of nearly 148 million adults – or about 45 percent of the U.S. population. The severity of this breach was underscored by the nature of personal information that was leaked – 145.5 million Social Security numbers. SSNs are known for being the “golden ticket” for scammers and identity thieves as they can use them to open lines of credit, gain access to financial accounts, apply for government benefits, and perform other criminal activities.
Two Pieces of Personal Information = Identity Crime Access
Eight months later, on May 7, 2018, Equifax provided a precise breakdown of the other consumer data exposed in the breach:
- 99 million physical addresses
- 3 million phone numbers
- 6 million driver’s license numbers
- 8 million email addresses
- 209,000 credit card numbers
- 97,500 tax identification numbers
This reveal didn’t get as much press as the initial breach announcement, but what consumers need to know is that it just takes two pieces of personal information for a fraudster to commit synthetic identity theft – the fastest-growing and most prevalent type of ID fraud. So, while an identity thief can cause enough harm with a Social Security number, it’s far easier for them to create further financial and personal devastation with additional pieces of PII.
A Year Later, Your Identity is Still at Risk
Even though twelve months have passed, the Equifax breach shouldn’t be forgotten. Once your personal information is out there – and in this case – most likely leaked onto the Dark Web, you are forever vulnerable. In fact, nearly one-third (31.7 percent) of breach victims later experience identity theft. The information exposed won’t simply disappear because some time has elapsed.
Now is not the time to be complacent about the risks you could be facing today and well into the future.
Credit cards can be cancelled, and login credentials can be changed, but personal information (like a Social Security number), once leaked, puts you at risk forever. Fraudsters often wait for time to subside before pouncing on their targets.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable from Child Identity Theft
Related to the patience of these cybercriminals, in an unsuspected, troubling twist: children’s personal information was also leaked through the Equifax breach.
Child identity theft has grown in popularity because kids have clean credit, and it’s likely that any criminal activity could go undetected for years, as typically a child’s credit report isn’t pulled (and really shouldn’t exist) until they are 18. There are exceptions to this of course, where a parent may engage with a credit bureau to verify whether or not their youngster has a credit profile, which could be an indication of fraud. This means that thieves can store away children’s personal information and use it with fewer risks. The video below highlights how a family of five discovered their 7-year-old son was involved in the Equifax data breach.
Even if you and your family haven’t been directly impacted yet, the chances are it’s just a matter of time. As we look back over the last year since the Equifax data breach, it’s imperative that we all know our personal data is still out there, being bought and sold on the Dark Web, therefore making it easily accessible to identity criminals and hackers.
Steps to Take Now
If you haven’t acted to protect yourself or your family, here are some tips to safeguard your identity.
- Were You or Your Family Exposed?
Just because you never received a breach notification from Equifax doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk. Equifax created a tool to determine if you or your loved ones are victims. You can see who is affected by using the tools on their Security Page.
- Follow These Eight Steps for Data Breach Victims
Beyond Equifax, there are thousands of additional data breaches every year. These eight tips provide actionable items for anyone who believes their personal information was compromised due to a data breach. Access the infographic here.
- There’s Still Time to Enroll in Identity Theft Protection
The best way to maintain peace of mind and stop fraudsters in their tracks is by being proactive. By entrusting the best identity theft protection to monitor your data, 24/7/365, you can rest assured that there’s no issue too big, or too small, for IdentityForce to handle. Get started with an individual free trial, or contact us about our family identity theft protection today.
Resources for Equifax Victims
IdentityForce and EZShield have united to provide the industry’s top-rated digital identity theft protection and cybersecurity solutions. Our team is committed to providing ongoing resources and tools to help you stay protected and aware of the latest scams and trends.
Both IdentityForce and EZShield provide in-depth and real-world recommendations on how to combat identity theft and the crimes associated with compromised personal information. Read up on the latest breach and scam news, ID protection news & tips from our team of industry experts on EZShield’s educational blog, Fighting Identity Crimes. Don’t forget to subscribe to IdentityForce’s monthly newsletter, as well as email updates from Fighting Identity Crimes.