As we all know by now, the Equifax breach has caused much speculation about the best way to secure our personal credit information. The Atlanta-based company announced that a cybersecurity incident has potentially impacted 143 million U.S. consumers. Criminals gained access to sensitive data, including Social Security numbers, between May and July. Equifax said it discovered the hack on July 29 but waited more than a month to publicly announce it.
According to the posted Equifax information, their link will help secure your data
www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impac. The link engages the reader to enroll in TrustedID Premier to see if they have been compromised.
According to the experts, the suggestion is to NOT use the service that Equifax is offering in the link above, money expert Clark Howard’s advice remains the same: Don’t enroll in TrustedID Premier. This data breach is so severe that the criminals will be able to use the information they’ve obtained next year, five years from now and beyond, so one year of protection isn’t enough. “My advice is don’t go to Equifax’s website. Assume you are affected and act accordingly,” Clark said.
Although action is most definitely required, do we still trust the company that was hacked to begin with? Many of us are now skeptical and for good reasons. Options? Life Lock, Fraud Alerts or Freezing your credit. So what is the difference? Let’s break it down.
The first step in this process should be to print your credit report and check it for discrepancies. Fortunately, there is a site that allows the user a credit report from each reporting agency, Equifax, Experian and/or TransUnion. AnnualCreditReport.com is completely free, but make sure you spell it correctly or you’ll get imitation sites that will try to charge you. Also, beware of fake mail and emails from Equifax pretending to check your info.
Second, determine if you want “Credit Monitoring”, a “Fraud Alert” or “Credit Freeze”.
Here’s the difference.
Credit Monitoring is a paid service like Life Lock. Upon retaining their services, the company watches your credit and will notify you if there is something suspicious. In some cases, they may assist you in dealing with fraudulent activity.
A Fraud Alert, done through the credit reporting bureaus, notifies you when anyone opens an account in your name, including you. It’s free and renewable. For a fraud alert, only one of the three credit bureaus must be notified.
A Security Freeze is supposed to block outsiders from opening an account in your name because they don’t know your secret PIN. You must complete the process with each bureau and keep careful record of the PIN in case you need to access your account.
A credit freeze also prevents creditors from accessing your credit report, according to the Federal Trade Commission. It prevents credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent. It does not affect your credit score. The process for freezing asks you to answer 3 questions about accounts you have had in the past and takes about 7 minutes per reporting agency to complete. Right now, due to the Equifax breach, Equifax has made this service free to those interested; whereas the other two agencies are charging the required fees (in Texas it is $10 per bureau), per individual state legislation.
If you freeze your account, it can still be seen by you, your existing creditors and debt collectors acting on their behalf, and government agencies (subpoena or search warrant).
Still want more information? Read these articles.