How to find out if you're affected by the Equifax hack

An estimated 12 million Texans have been affected by the recent Equifax data breach according to a consumer alert from the state Attorney General's office

Equifax discovered the unauthorized access on July 29 of this year and acted immediately to stop the intrusion. The payload is believed to include names, social security numbers, birth dates, home addresses and some drivers' license information.

Security experts are recommending consumers whose data was stolen place credit freezes on their accounts.

Equifax was founded in Atlanta in 1899, and over the years, has grown into one of the three largest credit-reporting agencies in the United States. The credit profiles it holds contain personal information, like how much people owe on their houses and whether they have court judgments against them. From there, you will be asked to enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number.

Pay a commercial identity theft protection service to monitor your credit reports and keep an eye on requests for credit in your name. The service's terms of use appear to require consumers to sign away their right to sue Equifax, although some reports say the company has now changed its policy to allow people to opt-out of its "mandatory arbitration" agreement.

Fortunately, there are defensive steps you can take.

The company suggests you sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. Several politicians and consumer groups have criticized this provision.

To get the ball rolling, visit the relevant websites of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

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If you haven't pulled a copy of your credit report lately, now is the time. This may cost a small fee if you do not have proof of identity theft or a police report, and you will have to lift or remove the freeze if you need a third party to access your credit report for a credit card application or vehicle loan application, for example.

Taking an inventory of your accounts and passwords.

While the Equifax breach is not as large as recent breaches at Yahoo-where cyberattacks affected the information of as many as 1.5 billion customers-the Wall Street Journal reported that the Equifax breach involves almost twice the number affected by the cyberattack at JP Morgan Chase about three years ago. Some lawyers have said they may file securities fraud lawsuits over the share price decline.

Equifax says it has found no evidence of activity on Equifax's core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.

"For far too long, businesses have under-invested in software integrity, relying on network-based defenses that are incapable of protecting many exploit vectors, including those associated with open source security defects", Wayne Jackson, chief executive officer of Sonatype Inc. So if you want to apply for something, you need to lift the freeze a few days beforehand.

In turn, there was some confusion over whether the site was legitimate and anger over the way it was rolled out.

The credit reporting agencies may charge a fee, usually under $10, depending on which state you live in.

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