Affected by the Equifax breach? Here's what you can do

Published: Sep. 13, 2017 at 7:08 PM CDT
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If you're one of the 143 million Americans potentially impacted by the Equifax breach, you might be wondering how you can protect your sensitive personal information. Experts weighed in with ideas and potential legal action.

The credit reporting bureau admitted earlier this week they were compromised between May and June and didn't noticed the breach until the end of July. More than 200,000 South Dakotans may have been impacted by the hack.

But are there steps you can take to protect your information? Any legal recourse. Experts said there is plenty you can do to stay safe, but legally, you might have to wait.

"There's no doubt there's going to be some sort of class action," said Amy Lauck, a partner at Lindquist & Vennum in Sioux Falls.

Lauck said you might not get much out of suing individually.

"A consumer could try to pursue this individually," Lauck said. "Some of them are trying to get Equifax to provide free credit freezes or pay for credit freezes."

Experts said Equifax will likely pay to freeze your credit at their agency, but that isn't where you should stop. You need to

"To put a freeze on you have to go through all three bureaus independently," said Kyle Cronin, "Right now for South Dakotans there is a charge of $10 per agency and you have to go to each agency."

While freezing your credit can help, it's only one step in the process.

"The nature of people using basically credit bureau focused information is to keep an eye on their credit report, not necessarily just the score but the actual contents of the report itself," said Cronin.

The hackers accessed sensitive information including social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and more, so they have all the data they need to open accounts many victims will never even know about.

"If you have someone's valid information, say, I want a new phone or I'd like a new credit card-- that you're going to pay for -- I can go out and fill out that information and just say, 'oh, by the way, I moved, I have a new address,'" Cronin said. "The problem with that is you're never going to know."

Equifax is providing free credit monitoring, but a term on its website said if you sign up for it, you'd waive your right to sue them in the future -- now, the clause has been removed.

"Having a consumer under a situation of duress be asked to waiving their right to a legal action," said Lauck. "I think that would not be an enforceable type of provision."

Many customers aren't comfortable signing up for the free credit monitoring service through Equifax, but experts say, you shouldn't be wary about giving them your personal information. The thing that makes this hack unique, Cronin said, is that Equifax isn't someone you give your information to -- they get it from an outside agency -- like a bank -- who is pulling your credit report, so they likely already have your information and you might as well take advantage of the free service they're offering.

Cronin also stressed the importance of continuing to keep an eye on things into the future, because hackers know that the breach has been all over the news, he said they'll likely wait months or even a year to try to use your information.

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