Someone asked me the following in an email:

What is Equifax? What could it have affected?

Here is my response, so maybe a few more people can see it:

What is Equifax?

Equifax is a credit reporting agency. They are one of the three (Experian and TransUnion are the others). Credit reporting agencies track insanely detailed financial information about every US citizen, and give them ratings that determine what interest rates they pay on loans and credit cards. When a bank checks you credit score, they check with one or more of the three agencies.

What could it have effected?

tldr; Even though you don’t know who Equifax is, they could have just leaked your social security number, driver’s license number and/or credit card number.

To collect their detailed information, all three credit reporting agencies track your SSN, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and other PII. Since they need to be able to give a credit score for anyone, they have your information even if you haven’t heard of them before, because every bank and credit card company reports to them (yeah, you read that right). So they have everyone’s information, and a lot of it – they are a GOLDMINE for hackers.

Equifax had a huge security breach the other day, resulting in definitely hundreds of thousands of leaks, and possibly 140 million leaks (the larger figure is always quoted in media reports, but is the number of “maybe affected”).

What should you do?

(You didn’t ask but I’m guessing you want to know.) First, check your CapCom, credit card, and whatever other accounts you have, to see if someone is using them. If they are, call immediately and report it as fraud, so the company can take action against it (credit card companies and banks do this frequently, and should be able to remedy the situation quickly). Second, check out equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine if you are one of the affected people. If you are “definitely not affected” you are lucky, around half of the US is in the “maybe affected category, like me.

If you are in the “maybe” category, you probably want to put a credit freeze on your account. It will only take 10-15 minutes of your time, but makes it harder to open credit in your name. This will add an extra step the next time you take out a loan (you will need to unfreeze your credit), but will make it much harder for hackers to use the information to open a new account. I froze mine with Experian. Make sure you generate your own random PIN. According to this reddit post, Equifax, and possibly other credit reporting agencies are generating PINs with timestamps, which provides virtually no security at all. To generate a 10-digit pin (always go for the most digits possible) you can use this random number generator.

I hope this helps!