Equifax Inc. is one of the four main consumer credit reporting agencies in America. If you’ve ever bought a car, a house, or used a credit card they have all your personal information on file.
Equifax was recently struck by a cyberattack that affected 143 million U.S. customers. Intruders stole user’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers were also accessed.
As a result of the data breach, millions of Americans are now potentially at risk for identity theft. I’ve met people who were victims of ID theft and it is terrible. Once your ID is stolen, you can easily spend years trying to get your credit back in order before you can purchase a car or a house or even apply for a new credit card.
Here’s a quick list of links to websites you should use to protect yourself.
Was your identity stolen?
Equifax has set up a site to determine if your information was stolen. This is Yes or No answer.
To protect yourself if your information was stolen, you should file a Security Freeze with the 4 agencies below. Once you freeze your credit reports, no bank or lender will be able to pull your reports unless you “unfreeze” them with a secret pin code only you have. The first 3 cost $10 each to initiate the freeze.
ChexSystems – Different from the 4 above, it is used by banks & credit unions to screen new customer accounts. This freeze will stop thieves from opening an account in your name, then writing checks and skipping town.
Even if your data was not stolen, you should still set up a Free 90 Day Fraud Alert. Fraud Alerts are like ‘red flags’ for anyone looking at your credit file. They signal to credit grantors that you may have been a victim of suspicious activity. Fraud Alerts alert creditors to take extra steps (typically calling you) to verify the legitimacy of a request for new credit, extension of credit on an existing account, or issuance of an additional card on an existing account. With this link you can create 1 alert that works with all credit agencies. You will be notified if your credit report is accessed. This must be renewed every 61-89 days but it is free.
YES or NO
Get your free credit report from the big 3 reporting companies. Experts suggest pulling 1 of the 3 reports every 4 months so you can see any suspicious changes to your credit report over time.
Even if your name was not on the list of accounts hacked, you should still seriously consider freezing your credit report files.
What happens when I freeze my credit reports?
Freezing your credit reports has no impact whatsoever on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. You can continue to use them as you regularly would even when your credit reporting is frozen. If you pay on time, your credit score will continue to rise. If you want to buy a house, car change phone companies or get a new credit card, you can temporarily “unfreeze” your account with a pin to give the specific company access to your credit report, then freeze it again. Each change of “freeze” status costs $10 dollars.
If you have kids with social security numbers, I’d recommend a credit freeze for them too. Just keep those pins handy.
What about Lifelock?
Lifelock, Equifax ID Patrol, Experian IdentityWorks, IdentityForce, Identity Guard and ProtectMyID are all credit reporting and monitoring services. Lifelock is the best known because of their advertising budget. The thing to keep in mind about these services is that they are monitoring your credit, not freezing it. It’s basically like closing the door after the horse is out of the barn. However, because Lifelock is convenient, it is better than nothing at all.
ConsumersReports.org and many financial experts recommend freezing instead of services like Lifelock for people who rarely need their credit files accessed.
This page is a quick checklist. For a detailed list of things to do if your identity is stolen, click here: