In light of Equifax’s announcement of a “Cybersecurity Incident” last week that affected 143 million customers, many consumers are wondering what to do next. So, we thought we would give you some steps to take moving forward.
First, are you currently monitoring your credit? If so, check your credit reports for any new activity such as inquiries. Most credit thief’s will try to apply for loans or accounts using your personal information, and the first sign is a new accouont inquiry. If you are not monitoring your credit, I highly advise you to open a free account with Credit Karma to take a glance at your Equifax and Transunion scores. Credit Wise will give you Experian credit information for free as well. Pull your credit reports, and analyze it carefully for any unrecognizable information. If you have questions about this, contact us and we would be happy to assist you.
We also want to encourage you to put a freeze on your report — and possibly a fraud alert.
What Is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it impossible for a thief to take out lines of credit in your name. When you put a freeze on your report at a credit bureau, that bureau won’t release your report when a company requests to pull it.
A freeze doesn’t affect your score, so there’s no need to worry about that. However, when you do want to take out a new line of credit, you’ll need to “thaw” your reports before you can apply for anything.
A Freeze Isn’t Foolproof
When you put a freeze on your report, you get a PIN that you’ll use whenever you’re ready to thaw your freeze. This PIN allows you to freeze and unfreeze your report at your discretion. There’s just one problem, a security freeze doesn’t protect you if the thieves break into the vault of the company that maintains the freeze. That’s what happened here, and we will now spend years seeing what happens next.
How to Freeze Your Reports
The process for freezing your report is pretty easy, but unfortunately, you may have to pay a $5 to $10 fee to freeze your report with each bureau. Here’s where you can go to sign up for a freeze at each of the three major credit bureaus:
You can also give them a call:
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872
Consider a Fraud Alert, Too
A fraud alert is another option to consider (and it’s free) in addition to a freeze. With a fraud alert, your credit report is flagged, and creditors and lenders must take added steps to verify your identity. For example, if you provide a telephone number, the business must call you to verify whether you are the person making the credit request. There are three types of alerts available, according to the FTC:
- Initial Fraud Alert. If you’re concerned about identity theft, but haven’t yet become a victim, this fraud alert will protect your credit from unverified access for at least 90 days. You may want to place a fraud alert on your file if your wallet, Social Security card, or other personal, financial or account information are lost or stolen.
- Extended Fraud Alert. For victims of identity theft, an extended fraud alert will protect your credit for seven years.
- Active Duty Military Alert. For those in the military who want to protect their credit while deployed, this fraud alert lasts for one year.
The good news is, you don’t have to request a fraud alert at every bureau. When you request a fraud alert be added with any of the three major credit bureaus, the bureau you contacted will notify the other two and alerts will be added with those bureaus as well. A fraud alert or initial security alert will warn lenders that you may have been a fraud victim. This will notify the potential lender that they should contact you before granting any new line of credit in your name. This fraud alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days. You can renew the fraud alert when it expires.
Here’s where to go if you want to place a fraud alert on your report:
Again, you only need to set the alert with one company and then they should notify the rest. A fraud alert is weaker than a credit freeze. If you put a freeze on your account, you don’t need to do a fraud alert.
We hope that helps. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.