Why a Credit Freeze is the Best Response to a Data Breach

By Gary Webb

Equifax Hack

The somewhat recent Equifax hack has left many concerned about their personal information and what they should do. The hack has left many scrambling to protect their identity. The credit bureau believes that up to 143 million people were affected, some 44% of the population. It’s likely that your information has been exposed and if you have not already, you should really place a security freeze on your credit files at the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Things you should know about the Breach

 

Don’t rely on the website Equifax set up due to the breach. It has not been reliable according to many people who have tried using it.  Suggestion: Use the phone    number listed below instead. Equifax was giving out sequential PINs.

Suggestion: Change your PIN to something random or unique. Credit file monitoring companies (Lifelock and others like them) give people a false sense of security and it has been proven time and again that these services do not work. That comment is not intended to upset you if you currently use a service such as Lifelock. The comment actually comes from recent conversations with an FBI agent and a forensic specialist I met. Here is the best two step approach I can suggest:

 

Here is the best 2-step approach I can suggest. 


1. Lock your credit file with each of the three credit bureaus (phone numbers listed below), especially because of the recent Equifax hack, the biggest hack in  history! By the way, the hack actually happened back in July. Equifax simply waited until September to tell us about it. Locking your credit files ensures nobody can apply for credit using your social   security number going forward. And right now, Equifax is not charging a fee to lock your credit file at this point in time.

 

Typically the fee each credit bureau  charges to lock your credit file is between $0 and $10, depending on which state you live in. 

Equifax 1-800-685-1111 

Experian 1-888-397-3742 

TransUnion 1-800-916-8800

 

2. Another really great idea to seriously consider is calling Zander Insurance at   1-800-356-4282 to purchase an Identity Theft Protection policy - in case you do get your identity stolen. Zander works with you to rebuild your credit so you don't need to spend all of your time rebuilding that part of your life all by yourself. The service Zander provides is very reasonably priced.

 

Note: When you need to unlock your credit file in the future because you want to open a new credit account, you need to call the same phone numbers listed above, and pay the fee. Be aware that it can take up to 2-3 days before you can open a new credit account once you unlock your credit file.

 

Stay vigilant. Freezing your credit will certainly give you peace of mind. You should however, continue to keep an eye on your credit. You are allowed one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus each year. The link to use for accessing your FREE credit reports is: http://www.annualcreditreport.com