By now, you have heard about the big Equifax credit breach, where the personal data of 143 million Americans was stolen. Chances are, your data was compromised, and this could include your name, address, date of birth, SS number, credit card information, and/or your driver’s license number. This information is nearly everything that is needed to open an account in your name. So it’s important to know what you can do to protect yourself.
How to Protect Yourself from the Equifax Credit Breach
Much of the advice encourages placing a credit freeze on your accounts. Here is info from the FTC website on how to place a credit freeze. Do know that this can be inconvenient because virtually no one will be able to access your credit file (including you) if you need to apply for a loan or any type of credit, a new job, need services such as the internet, phone, cable, etc, or even insurance. If you place a freeze on your account, you will need to temporarily lift it if you need to authorize someone to check your credit. There may be small fees involved. Note that if you’re an actual victim of ID theft, a security freeze is a necessity.
Steps To Protect Your Identity
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file for no charge. The TransUnion website has all the details, and they provide this service for free. They will alert the other 2 credit reporting agencies (Experian and Equifax) of the fraud alert you place with TransUnion. The alert is good until 1/1/2018, and you can renew it at that time. A fraud alert will warn lenders that you may have been a fraud victim and they will contact you directly before any new loan or credit is established in your name.
- Check your credit report (free on annualcreditreport.com) and then save the PDF and upload it to your vault (if you’re a client). You can request a report up to 3 times/year, once a year from each bureau.
- Be careful about phone calls and mail that could be coming from fraudulent sources pretending to be the IRS, a credit bureau, etc.
- Monitor your accounts very carefully at least monthly for charges you didn’t make and balances and/or transactions that seem incorrect.
- Place alerts on accounts where possible… for example, many credit cards will allow you to place an alert when a purchase exceeds a limit you set.
Equifax Free Credit Monitoring
Equifax is offering free credit monitoring, but if you accept this service, be sure to read the fine print as it precludes you from suing Equifax and/or participating in any class action lawsuits. They may also start charging your credit card once the initial free period is over.
I encourage you to read this article from the LA Times, Here are all the Ways the Equifax Breach is Worse than you can Imagine.
This breach is a potentially life-long threat to your identity, so take the precautions that make sense for you. Be in touch if you have any questions.