Am I Impacted by the Equifax Security Breach?
Recently, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, disclosed a massive security breach in which more than 143 million consumers may have had their information compromised, including:
Social security numbers
Dates of birth
Driver’s license numbers
Credit card information (for ~209,000 consumers)
Due to the high potential impact of this breach, the following steps are recommended:
1) Determine whether you may have been affected. Go through Equifax’s self-service portal:
Enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number, and you’ll find out whether Equifax believes you’ve been affected. This process takes only a couple of minutes.
2) Enroll in Equifax’s credit monitoring and identity theft protection. Equifax is now offering one free year of TrustedID Premier, its credit monitoring and identity theft protection product, to all U.S. consumers, even if you aren’t a victim.
While in the Equifax’s self-service portal, you’ll be given the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier. Click Enroll, and you’ll be provided with an enrollment date. Be sure to write down this date and return to the site on or after that date.
3) Be wary of e-mails that come from Equifax. Because of the high number of victims, Equifax is notifying only the 209,000 consumers whose credit card information may have been affected via postal mail. Do not trust e-mails that appear to come from Equifax regarding the breach. Attackers are likely to take advantage of the situation and craft sophisticated phishing e-mails.
4) Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. Enrollment in the TrustedID Premier service can help you monitor your credit, but be sure to monitor your other important accounts for any suspicious activity.
For more information, visit Equifax’s FAQs page regarding the incident.
What about creating a “fraud alert” or “freezing” my credit?
Other options that many consumers are choosing is to either set up a “fraud alert” or “freeze” their credit. With a fraud alert, businesses must try to verify your identity and obtain your consent before extending new credit. Whereas, a credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report altogether. It prevents any credit, loans and services from being approved in your name unless you consent and lift the freeze on your credit. Neither a fraud alert nor a credit freeze affects your credit score.
To place a fraud alert, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), either by phone or online. The one you contact is required to notify the other two. A fraud alert is free and lasts for 90 days. You can renew it but you'll need to remind yourself or it will expire automatically. Identity theft victims are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which last seven years.
To freeze your credit, it must be done with the three credit agencies independently (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). There is a small fee of typically $5-10 to freeze and unfreeze your credit (Equifax is currently waiving the fee). During the period that your credit is frozen, no new accounts can be opened; this includes new credit cards, obtaining a mortgage to purchase a home, refinancing your current home, car loans, car leases, apartment leases, interest-free financing on furniture and appliances, student loans, and obtaining new insurance. There is a cost and “hassle” factor involved, but if you don’t have any need for new credit inquiries or services in the near future, it may be worthwhile.
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The Scott Loper Team
Scott & Lisa Loper