Giant Equifax data breach: 143 million people could be affected

(WIVB) – Equifax says a giant cybersecurity breach compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans — almost half the country.

Cyber criminals have accessed sensitive information — including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver’s licenses.

Scott Laughlin of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo shudders at the thought of this security breach at Equifax, “It is one of the largest and most impactful that we will probably ever see.”

Because Equifax is among the “big three” credit reporting agencies–including TransUnion and Experian–that gather data on consumers when they apply for credit, and how they use credit, their job histories, family incomes, and bank accounts, Laughlin suspects the computer hack affects more than the company’s 143 million customers.

“That is why the hackers went to these companies, because they are one of the three companies that has all of that information. They would be the prime target for any hacker.”

 Additionally, Equifax said that credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. customers were exposed, as was “personal identifying information” on roughly 182,000 U.S. customers involved in credit report disputes. Residents in the U.K. and Canada were also impacted.

The breach occurred between mid-May and July, Equifax said. The company said it discovered the hack on July 29.

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” said Equifax chairman and CEO Richard F. Smith.

Equifax is one of three nationwide credit-reporting companies that track and rates the financial history of U.S. consumers. The companies are supplied with data about loans, loan payments and credit cards, as well as information on everything from child support payments, credit limits,missed rent and utilities payments, addresses and employer history, which all factor into credit scores.

Equifax gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders who report on the credit activity of individuals to credit reporting agencies, as well as by purchasing public records.

Consumers can check to see if they’ve potentially been impacted by submitting their last name and the last six digits of their social security number. Equifax is mailing notices to people whose credit cards or dispute documents were affected.

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