On Sept. 8, credit monitoring firm Equifax announced a data breach that affected 143 million Americans, as well as some in Canada and the U.K., reports The Wall Street Journal.
Initially, it was reported that the breach occurred in May, but recent reports say there were breaches dating back to March of this year, according to the Journal.
According to The Wall Street Journal, in the U.S., anyone seeking a loan or mortgage has a credit check. The institution making the check requests background information on the applicant, such as their history of paying on time, the amount of credit taken out in their name and how much debt they carry. The three largest credit monitoring firms that track this information are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
“Equifax said hackers gained access to systems containing customers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses,” the Journal reports.
Following the news of the breach, the Federal Trade Commission, which recently announced a federal investigation regarding the matter, published a guide for consumers who were concerned about their information. In addition to checking whether your information was included in the breach, the agency recommends regularly checking your credit report; considering a freeze on your credit; closely monitoring bank and credit card accounts; and filing taxes early.
The breach may affect small business owners differently than the everyday consumer, according to a class-action lawsuit filed against Equifax by Atlanta-based law firm The Doss Firm LLC. The suit was filed on behalf of about 28 million small business owners in the U.S., according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
According to the Chronicle, “the suit … claims that small business owners were disproportionally affected by the breach, as the availability of small business credit is often directly linked to its owners’ creditworthiness.”
The lawsuit seeks damages accounting for time spent monitoring for fraudulent activity and legal costs incurred in the process, the Chronicle reports.