Here’s Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Check Your Credit for Breaches

Stolen Credit Cards in Hands of Thief Trying to Use Cards Online
welcomia/Getty Images

The next chapter in the Equifax saga revealed that 2.4 million more consumers than previously reported were affected by the original 2017 breach.

That brings the total count to almost 148 million people. Yikes.

However, Equifax said that this batch of consumers had minimal information stolen compared to the original 145.5 million.

What New Personal Information Was Compromised

Suspicions arose last month after a Wall Street Journal article and an investigation led by Elizabeth Warren suggested that more information, like tax identification number and passport numbers, were compromised in the original breach.

Equifax confirmed yesterday that hackers accessed names and partial driver’s license numbers of these 2.4 million consumers, but cyber thieves didn’t get their hands on complete information like home addresses, or driver’s license issuing state, issue date or expiration date.

These newly affected consumers also didn’t have their Social Security numbers stolen in tandem with their driver’s license numbers, which is why they were not previously notified, according to Equifax’s statement.

Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., Equifax’s interim chief executive officer, said in a media release, “This is not about newly discovered stolen data. It’s about sifting through the previously identified stolen data, analyzing other information in our databases that was not taken by the attackers, and making connections that enabled us to identify additional individuals.”

So, this didn’t come up before because Equifax focused on the Social Security number breach, which poses a higher risk for identity theft.

What to Do If Your Information Was Stolen

If you think about it, 147.9 million people is nearly half the U.S. population. That’s a lot of people. Scary.

What’s even scarier is a new survey reports that 50% of Americans have not checked their credit in the past six months. More than a quarter of respondents ages 18 to 37 had never checked their credit reports or scores. Even worse, 46% of the same age group hadn’t heard anything about the Equifax breach.

If your information was included in this newly revealed part of the breach, Equifax plans to reach out directly to you. It will extend the same free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services as it did to others involved in breach.

Not being notified doesn’t mean you should be complacent about your credit or personal information. It only takes a minute to check if the breach compromised your personal information.

If it was, you may want to consider setting up fraud alerts or placing a freeze on your credit.

You can also take advantage of the new Lock & Alert program that Equifax launched for free in January. It lets consumers to lock and unlock their Equifax credit report — for life — with a computer or mobile phone.

All we know is that it is more time-consuming and costs more to recover from identity theft than to prevent it.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She set up email alerts and gets notifications when anything changes on her credit. Take that, scammers.