Equifax recently announced that it had suffered a data breach, potentially affecting over 145 million U.S. customers. Exposed data included names, birth dates, addresses and social security numbers. The company added that 209,000 credit card numbers were also obtained. 

Equifax if one of the three major organizations in the United States that calculates credit scores, which means that they have access to an extraordinary amount of personal and financial data for nearly all American adults. The big question that many are asking is, How did this happen? 

Based on Equifax's investigation, unknown hackers managed to exploit a security flaw on the Equifax website and were able to gain unauthorized access to certain files between mid-May and July 2017. 

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Now, you might be wondering how you can protect yourself from what's coming next. The reality is that security breaches like that of Equifax, as well as the data breach at Target, Home Depot and many others are here to stay. The only thing that people can do is try to protect their personal data as best as possible, and respond quickly if something does happen. While we hope that you were not impacted by this recent data breach, here are some steps to take to protect yourself and your identity from being compromised:

  1. Change your login information on accounts with the affected company. If you used that same username or password on other sites, it's a good idea to change those as well.
  2. Monitor any financial accounts associated with the breach for fraud. (For example, the credit card you used at a breached retailer.) Your liability may depend on how quickly you spot and report suspicious transactions.
  3. Beware of phishing attacks. Phishing, pronounced like fishing, is a term used to describe a malicious individual or group of individuals who scam users. They do so by sending emails or creating web pages that are designed to collect a person's online bank, credit card, or other login information.
  4. Take advantage of any free credit monitoring offered by the affected company, to catch new accounts opened in your name.
  5. Place a fraud alert on your file with the three credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian  and TransUnion. The renewable, 90-day alert requires lenders to verify your identity before issuing credit, making it tougher for someone to open new accounts in your name. 

Your credit score and financial situation are important criteria lenders take into account when you're going through the home buying process.  We hope you found these tips helpful and will take steps to safeguard your personal and financial information. Contact us today if you're in the market for a new home and be sure to subscribe to our blog for valuable news and helpful tips.

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