The Equifax data breach

Paul Lewis / 16 October 2017

Paul Lewis looks at the data theft from credit reference agency Equifax, and how thieves may target the people affected.

Around 700,000 people in the UK have had their name, date of birth, email address and a phone number stolen by thieves from the credit reference agency Equifax. In the US, it’s estimated that 143 million people have had their data breached.

Five scams to steal your personal information.

It should have been the safest place to store our data, which it collects as part of financial transactions including loans, opening a bank account, starting a mobile phone contract, or paying a utility bill.

Official warning

The National Cyber Security Council – part of spy agency GCHQ – has warned that thieves may use the stolen data to call people and pretend to be genuine. For example: ‘Hello, is that Joe Bloggs? I am calling from your bank. And so you know it is genuine, your phone number ends in 253 and the month of your birth is June…’ They then lead you up and down the garden path getting more information and before you know it your money has gone.

Five things your bank will never ask you to do.

New laws

From May next year, a tough new European law will increase the fines for data breaches and make companies report them as soon as they can and, in serious cases, inform the individuals affected. It is a disgrace that this little-known (in the UK) and ubiquitous data harvester allowed its systems to be hacked. The US chief executive of Equifax has followed the head of security and left the company.

If you're worried that your email address has been stolen in a data breach, the website Have I been pwned? allows you to search across multiple data breaches to see if your details have been compromised.

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.