San Diego based consumer group studies effects of Equifax data breach
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – It was a massive breach of personal data. One year ago, the credit reporting agency Equifax disclosed that the names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and other data of more than 148 million Americans – amounting to almost half of the American population- had been compromised by a data breach. The Identity Theft Resource Center, based in San Diego has conducted a study to look at the impact of the Equifax data breach on those whose personal data was stolen.
The ITRC polled 881 people. 89% said they had been a victim of the Equifax breach. Of that number, 21% reported suspicious or unusual activity. 23% said new credit card accounts were opened, while 34% said there were changes to existing credit card accounts. 23% reported other accounts, such as debit cards, cable or internet services were opened in their name.
In the hands of thieves, the stolen information could be sold on the dark web, used to file phony tax returns and misused for medical and hospital bills. The ITRC report said the emotions of those who suffered the data breach were the same as those of identity theft victims. 81% said they were worried or anxious. 77% said they were angry. 65% felt violated.
Eva Velasquez, the ITRC’s CEO and President said people who are worried about identity theft should contact the resource center.
“We have all of these no-cost services available to people through the call center and through the live chat on our website. Because this is such a complicated process, we need to hear exactly what you are experiencing so you don’t waste your time and we’re able to empower you, and get you to take the right action steps, right away,” Velasquez said.
A year after the breach, nearly half of the victims said they were still taking measures to protect themselves from identity theft. 44% report they continue to use the free credit monitoring that was offered by Equifax. 56% had imposed a freeze on their credit reports.18% paid for credit monitoring or identity protection services.
The Equifax breach, which shook the confidence of consumers has lead to new federal legislation. Starting September 21, there will be new measures to enhance the verification of Social Security numbers and credit reporting agencies will have to offer a freeze on credit reports, for free.
For more information about identity theft and what steps you can take to protect your data, you can visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s website at IDTheftCenter.org, or talk to an advisor at 888-400-5530.