You are probably aware of the Equifax security breach news that broke on September 8, 2017. 143 million consumers are affected by this data breach that includes credit card information, social security numbers, names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, etc. In a nutshell, many items that a crook would need to impersonate you and open accounts under your name. Both my wife and I were among the 143 million and odds are, you are too. Here’s an article from the NY Times in case you were unaware:
What you can do
First, you probably want to know if you were part of the 143 million consumers whose data was likely compromised. Equifax setup a website that will tell you. Click “Begin Enrollment” on the link below and you can see if you your information was likely compromised. You’ll have to enter your last name and last six digits of your Social Security #. If you receive a date to return to their site and enroll in their credit protection service (they’re offering it for free for one year), then you are most likely affected. I put my kids’ info into the system just to see what would happen and the result said something to the effect of, “we do not believe that your data was compromised.” For my wife and I it was, “come back and enroll in our credit protection service on September 12th.”
To be sure, I’m not convinced that Equifax’s Credit Protection service is enough. Their credibility is pretty low with me right now. There are other Credit Monitoring Services out there…LifeLock is probably the most well-known (https://www.lifelock.com/). LifeLock costs $30/month for their top of the line service. They have cheaper plans too.
Another option (the one that I’m using) is to “freeze” your credit. This should (hopefully) protect you against anyone using your information to open new credit in your name. It will not impact any existing credit that you have in-place.
The process to do this is a bit cumbersome because you should do it at all three credit agencies. Equifax and Experian’s process is fairly easy. Transunion’s is more of a process because they make you “register” on their site first. If you do this for you and a spouse/partner, you’ll be doing it a total of 6 times (2 ppl x 3 credit reporting agencies). While your credit is frozen, neither you nor anyone else should be able to apply for new credit. This includes credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and leases, etc. Remember that it’s not just lenders who access your credit file. Employers can/do too so if you’re applying for a job right now, you may want to hold-off.
The freeze can be lifted by you (temporarily or permanently) at any time. Just remember that you’ll have to unfreeze your credit at all three credit agencies and the freeze may not lift instantaneously so if you’re applying for credit anywhere, give yourself plenty of lead time to lift the freeze so it doesn’t hold-up your loan/credit application. If you want more info about Credit Freezing, check this link out (from the Federal Trade Commission “FTC”):
If you decide to freeze your credit, here are the sites to go to for each of the three credit reporting agencies: