The Equifax Breach and You

Equifax setup a website,  https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ So that you can check if your personal information was included in this latest breach. This page has a link to https://TrustedIDPremier.com which can check if your data saw part of the breach. You can sign up for their ID protection service from there if you’d like.

We’ve all probably heard of the recent, highly publicized Equifax breach and cyber extortion. In light of this are other breaches, you have probably also formed the impression that, if you are an adult in the U.S., your basic personal information is probably for sale somewhere. Unfortunately, you’re right. There is no airtight solution, but there are some things you can do.

1.     There are three main credit reporting agencies (CRAs) in the U.S.: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Innovis is also growing in size. The information about you in a credit report from any one of these CRAs is almost the same. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three main CRAs per year. Consider obtaining one report from each CRA once every four months. You can do that here: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Check it carefully for errors and accounts that aren’t yours.

2.     Next, consider placing a credit freeze on your identity. You will also see this referenced as a security freeze. With a freeze in place, lenders need to obtain your permission before they can get a copy of your credit report, making it hard for identity thieves to open new accounts with your information. A credit freeze does not reduce your credit score, but will require you to lift the freeze when obtaining a mortgage, purchasing insurance, applying for a job, etc. You can learn more about the credit freeze process here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs#what. Another good discussion is available here: http://consumersunion.org/research/consumers-unions-guide-to-security-freeze-protection/.

a.     Freeze quick links

                                               i.     Equifax – 800-349-9960, https://freeze.equifax.com

                                             ii.     Experian – 888-397-3742, https://experian.com/freeze

                                            iii.     TransUnion – 888-909-8872, https://transunion.com/freeze

3.     You can also place a fraud alert on your identity. It’s not as effective as a credit freeze, but does obligate a business to verify your identity before credit can be issued, although this process is far from perfect. More information on the types of fraud alerts and the process to put an alert in place is available here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert

4.     Opt out of pre-approved credit offers that can be taken from the mail stream and used for fraud. Begin the process at www.optoutprescreen.com

The question of whether or not to subscribe to a credit monitoring service, even a free one like Equifax is offering (for a year), comes down to personal choice. Despite the marketing hype, none of these services prevent identity theft. At best, credit monitoring services alert you after your identity is stolen. The steps above make it less likely that you will fall victim in the first place.

If you suspect you have been the victim of identity theft, a good response roadmap is available at https://identitytheft.gov/

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