Up to 143M US consumers exposed in Equifax hack, could impact iPhone buyers

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U.S. credit scoring agency Equifax has admitted that hackers gained access to the data of 143 million Americans earlier this year, something that could be particularly relevant to people in Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program.

Hackers had access to files between May and July of this year, though the problem was only discovered on July 29, Equifax said. In addition to names, birthdays, and addresses, other compromised data includes driver's license and Social Security numbers. About 209,000 people had credit card numbers stolen, and 182,000 had documents used in disputes taken.

The situation is being investigated by both the FBI and a security firm hired by Equifax. Those worried they may be affected can visit equifaxsecurity2017.com to check, but the company is asking for the last six digits of a person's Social Security number, and not necessarily giving any confirmation other than when they can enroll in planned protection service, which will be free for a year for anyone who signs up by Nov. 21. People can separately ask to have their credit reports frozen.

Apple's U.S. loan partner for the iPhone Upgrade Program is Citizens Bank, which is believed to perform at least some credit checks with Equifax. The situation could also impact iPhone buyers in general, since carriers like AT&T and Verizon also perform checks on postpaid subscribers.

It may be vital that people check whether they were impacted, because the compromised data could be used to gain access to things like bank accounts and medical records.

The iPhone Upgrade Program costs at least $32.41 per month after an initial purchase, but guarantees a new iPhone once a year after a trade-in, and includes AppleCare+. It could see a rush of people this year, given the "iPhone 8's rumored $999-plus pricetag.