The Equifax Breach: What Car Buyers Should Know

The Equifax Breach: What Car Buyers Should Know

In early September, media outlets ran wild with details about a data breach that took place at one of the country’s three major credit reporting agencies. Equifax announced nearly 143 million consumers were affected, with their personal information like date of birth, social security number, and home address compromised in the breach. Also, credit card numbers for an estimated 209,000 Americans and credit dispute documents for 182,000 consumers were compromised. In the wrong hands, these identifying details could be used to open new credit accounts that have a harmful long-term effect on an individual’s credit history and score.

Identity theft is a growing issue in our society, and with widespread concern over data breaches like the one that took place with Equifax, consumers are warier than ever in sharing personal information with potential creditors. When it comes to purchasing a car, the recent compromise with Equifax may force some buyers to question whether their information is safe with the dealership. Here’s what you need to know about the security measures dealerships put in place to protect your information and steps you can take to do the same.

Is It Safe to Share My Personal Information with a Car Dealership?

The good news for car buyers is that although dealerships collect a good amount of personal information, including full name, home address, social security numbers, and credit details, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act Safeguards Rule places some hefty requirements on car dealers to ensure these details remain protected. Through this law, dealerships are required to follow specific procedures that affect every customer walking through the door, including:

  • Developing, implementing, and maintaining a comprehensive information security plan
  • Designating an employee to coordinate consumer safeguards and ensuring partners and affiliates do the same
  • Identifying any risks to consumer information in all areas of a dealership’s operation
  • Evaluating, monitoring, and testing safeguard programs to ensure compliance and protections to buyers

In addition to these regulations, car dealerships are required to inform you, the buyer, what will be done with your personal and financial details during and after purchasing a vehicle. A dealership privacy policy includes these relevant details, like what information is collected and retained about you, how that information will be or won’t be shared, and the ability to opt-out of sharing information when possible. The privacy policy you receive when purchasing a car at a dealership is incredibly important, as it spells out exactly how your information is protected from bad actors and potential threats like a data breach.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself from Data Breaches?

While dealerships have several strategies in place to ensure your personal information is kept safe, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft, too. If you’re concerned about the recent Equifax data breach, you can check to see if your details were compromised by visiting this link.

If you were potentially compromised, you have the option to set up credit monitoring through Equifax at no cost, which is a smart way to stay aware of any changes to your credit report. This ensures you’re notified of any new accounts you didn’t authorize, a change of address that isn’t accurate, or an increase in current credit account usage that you didn’t do.

Additionally, some financial experts suggest placing a credit freeze on each of your credit reports through Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A credit freeze puts a stop to any new activity on your credit report, like opening a new account, which stops identity thieves in their tracks. Should you need access to credit for a new car loan, you can temporarily unfreeze your credit so the dealership can review your financial history and approve your new loan application—just remember to do so before applying for an auto loan, or you’ll run into delays while waiting for your dealership to approve your application.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from identity theft is to keep a close eye on your credit information, whether you were affected by the Equifax breach or not. In the connected world we live in, there are countless places where your details could be compromised, but several protections exist to help keep your information safe. Dealerships adhere to strict safeguard and privacy policies to protect the personal data you provide in the process of getting a new car, as do other financial institutions like banks, lenders, and mortgage companies. Understanding these protections and taking steps to monitor your credit report over time are necessary to prevent the harmful effects of identity theft both now and in the future.