Last week, I wrote in my blog post that credit monitoring company Equifax announced a data breach that occurred on July 29th affecting about 143 million Americans. Here is an excerpt of that post:
"Thieves obtained names, addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. This information could be used to steal your identify and open new credit cards in your name.
Equifax has established a web site https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ with additional information as well as an app to see if you were likely affected. You will be asked for your last name and the last 6 digits of your Social Security number to check your status. You can also call the Equifax Response Line at 866-447-7559. If you were affected, you will have the ability to sign up for a year of free credit monitoring, a free credit report, credit report lock, as well as ID theft insurance, called “TrustedID Premier” courtesy of Equifax. There may be a future date in the next few weeks when you are first allowed to sign up for this service since so many were affected.
In addition to signing up for TrustedID Premier for those affected, I recommend that you change your passwords every 3 to 6 months starting now, use strong passwords, pull your credit annually to check for inaccuracies or unauthorized use of your personal information, and check your credit card statements monthly for accuracy of charges."
Hopefully by now, you have checked to see if you were affected and if so, have also signed up for a complimentary one year subscription to Equifax's remedy called TrustedID Premier. If you have not checked/signed up, I encourage you to use the link above or phone number above to check.
An additional measure that you could take is to have your credit frozen. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a security freeze is the "most robust protection that consumers can access. It prevents any new lines of credit from being issued as long as the lender checks with one of the credit-reporting agencies." By activating a freeze, no one, including you, can open a new line of credit without having the freeze lifted first.
Freezing your credit has pros and cons. The benefit of course is that it makes it harder for identity thieves to use your personal information to open new credit lines. However, you will need to install a freeze at all 3 rating agencies (use the links below to begin). Rating agencies can charge a fee of $10 each to activate a freeze. When you activate the freeze, you will be given a secret PIN by each agency and you must then lift the freeze using the PIN if you want to apply for credit yourself. You may need to lift the freeze for any credit check including a new employer, a new cell phone contract, a new insurance policy, or a new line of credit. Be sure to keep your PIN in a very secure place where you can find it if and when you need to temporarily or permanently remove the freeze.
Equifax Freeze: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
Experion Freeze: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
Transunion Freeze: https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp
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