ALBANY -- The massive security breach at Equifax Inc. that affected 143 million Americans hit about 8 million New Yorkers, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman issued a consumer alert Friday over the breach at one of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies and announced a formal investigation into the incident, asking Equifax for more details about what happened.
The breach lasted from mid-May through July, when hackers accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers, he said.
“The Equifax breach has potentially exposed sensitive personal information of nearly everyone with a credit report, and my office intends to get to the bottom of how and why this massive hack occurred,” he said in a statement.
His office also offered some tips to try to protect your personal information:
Make a call
You can start by calling a dedicated call center set up by Equifax at 866-447-7559 to answer basic questions about the breach. The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Or you can check to see if you were affected by visiting, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, and then click the "potential impact" tab.
Do a credit check
Schneiderman recommended consumers do a check of your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- the three main credit agencies.
You can do that by visiting annualcreditreport.com. The check is free, and it can help you see if there are any accounts or activity that could suggest identity theft.
Enact a freeze
Another step is to consider placing a credit freeze on your accounts. That way, it can make it more difficult for someone to try to open an account in your name, although it can't stop a thief from using your current accounts.
Keep close watch
If nothing else, you should closely monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts to check for unauthorized charges. If you see anything unusual, call your credit card company or bank immediately.
Guard your Social Security number
One of the main concerns of the Equifax breach is that it involved Social Security numbers. That means a risk of tax fraud, Schneiderman said.
Tax fraud often involves a thief using Social Security numbers to get a tax refund or a job. A way to protect yourself would be to filing your taxes early next year and monitor anything you get from the IRS, which could show any potential illegal activity.
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