Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, reported that hackers had gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million Americans.

The information included Social Security and driver’s license numbers as well as names, birth dates and addresses. Credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers were stolen as well as personal information used in disputes from 182,000 people and security questions used for such activities as resetting passwords.

“We learn of new data breaches every day,” said Cynthia Erdman, president of Partnership Bank in Tomah. Citing the most recent Yahoo! breach that affected over 500 million Yahoo! user accounts, Erdman said, “The Equifax hack is different … the sheer breadth of the information compromised is cause for extreme concern; naturally, mine and Partnership Bank’s first concern is making sure our clients are safe and have the information they need to protect themselves.”

By Saturday morning, Partnership Bank was distributing the following information provided by Wisconsin Bankers Association: To determine if your information was exposed: Visit the site equifaxsecurity2017.com. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Be sure you are on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter your social security number. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.

“On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of risk to consumers, this is a 10,” said Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst at Gartner, Inc. − the world’s leading research and advisory company.

Erdman urged people to monitor their accounts closely and frequently, match credit card statements with receipts and balance their checkbook monthly.

“Data compromises will not suddenly go away,” Erdman said. “My best advice − get signed up for online services and alerts with your bank and credit card companies. By viewing your accounts online throughout the month, you’ll be able to detect problems when they occur as well, receiving text messages that will alert you to activity on your accounts that will hopefully help stop or catch the thief.”

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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