The hack revealed critical personal information that may be used by identity thieves. This is one of the most consequential data breaches in history – nearly ALL of the U.S. adults have credit histories on file with Equifax. This could impact you!
You can see if you were a victim of Equifax’s hack by visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ enter your last name and last 6 digits of your social security number. You can also wait to receive a letter from Equifax.
Credit Monitoring services only alert you to when there has been a breach. You can do some of that by closely monitoring your credit card statements. Look for charges you don’t recognize and follow up. Hopefully your credit card company will notify you when they see irregular, sizable charges.
A more permanent solution to identity theft is to freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus.
A security freeze, also called a credit freeze, locks your credit file at each bureau with a special PIN. That PIN must be used in order for anyone to access your credit file, or add a new credit in your name.
Credit bureaus rarely suggest freezing your credit. That restricts information given to banks and other companies that grant credit. Their recommendation is “credit monitoring”. As we already discussed, that alerts you AFTER there is a problem.
How to freeze your credit:
You need to contact all 3 of the credit bureaus individually. This can be done online or over the phone. You will be asked a few questions to confirm your identity.
Experian: 888-397-3742 www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
Transunion 888-909-8872 www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-creditfreeze
Equifax 866-349-5191 www.freeze.equifax.com/freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
You may want to leave Equifax to last as they are receiving high traffic.
There may be a nominal fee ($0-10$) at each credit bureau.
To lift your freeze, contact the bureau used by the lender and provide your PIN to temporarily lift the freeze. This can only be done on line or over the phone. It may take a few days for the freeze to be lifted. After your credit has been secured, you may want to verify the freeze has been reinstated.
This may seem time consuming and cumbersome. However, fixing your credit after an identity theft requires much more effort.
This is definitely a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.