Equifax confirmed Tuesday that four credit reports had been hacked through AnnualCreditReport.com, the website that provides free credit reports to consumers. But the national credit reporting bureau stopped short of saying the breach directly involved celebrities, as widely reported.
Media reports say the compromised personal information belonged to at least 17 high-profile individuals, including hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce, and political figures Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama. Equifax did not confirm the identities of the individuals who were affected by the breach.
The credit bureau said it is working with Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and will be getting internal updates on the breach. The Secret Service declined to comment on the investigation.
Consumers must provide personally identifiable information to gain access to their credit reports. Equifax's early investigation into the incident shows that the hackers were able to provide this personal data to authenticate their request for a credit report on the website.
"It wasn't a hack of our database or of any consumer information in our database," says Equifax spokesman Tim Klein.
Experian, one of the two other main credit bureaus, said it froze the credit files of those victimized by the attack and is conducting its own investigation to see if any of its information was accessed. TransUnion also is assisting those affected by the incident and is doing an internal investigation. Both emphasized that their databases had not been breached.
The national credit reporting bureaus maintain more than 200 million credit reports on Americans, which are available at AnnualCreditReport.com. Less than 16 million Americans pulled their free credit reports from the website in 2011, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Companies that supply consumer reports, such as credit reports, must provide a free copy every 12 months at a consumer's request under a 2003 provision in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
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