EQUIFAX BREACH: Do These Things Now
The recent Equifax data breach is a terrifying reminder of just how easy it is for our personal information to get into the hands of criminals. When you're assessing the damage to your own credit, don't forget to assess the impact on elderly loved ones and loved ones who have died.
Check Your Credit
When you're looking to see if your information has breached, don't forget to check the credif of your aging loved ones as well anyone who has died. The statistics on identity theft of people who have passed on is astounding.
Sign Up for Free Credit Monitoring
You may want to take advantage of the free credit monitoring Equifax is offering. Get more information and sign up for free monitoring here.
Watch Your Credit Card Accounts for Suspicious Activity
Don’t wait for your monthly statement to arrive; fraudulent charges may pile up before you notice. Check your accounts online frequently or set an alert to notify you whenever a charge above a set amount is made. You can challenge fraudulent credit charges, but your best protection from liability depends on alerting your issuer in a timely fashion.
Monitor Your Credit Scores and Reports
Watch for signs that someone has opened new accounts using your data. Check your credit scores regularly for unexplained changes. Scan credit reports for accounts you don’t recognize. This is something you can do yourself. Many personal finance websites and some credit card issuers offer free credit scores and credit report information you can access anytime. When choosing a free provider, look for one that sends alerts when new accounts are opened or when your credit score changes.
Decide How to Secure Your Credit Data
Consider a credit freeze. This strategy gives you the best firewall against your data being misused because it restricts access to your records. There's a pricetag attached; it can cost up to $10 per bureau, and you must pay to lift the freeze later if you want to apply for new credit. Equifax is covering the cost of credit freezes and monitoring of its own records. However, it’s not doing the same for freezes and monitoring through the other two major credit bureaus, TransUnion and Experian.
Fraud alerts are another option. They flag lenders and card issuers that credit applications should receive extra scrutiny. In most cases, a lender will contact you to verify a credit application. The service is free, but most alerts last only 90 days unless you renew them.
All three credit bureaus have a “credit lock” service, and they may offer these as an alternative when you try to freeze your credit. It’s easier to lift a lock when you want to apply for credit, but locks don’t block access as thoroughly as a freeze.
It's important to note that all three bureaus’ terms of service require you to waive your right to participate in a class-action lawsuit and use arbitration instead. Cost varies, from free to more than $20 a month, but you may be able to lock all three bureaus with one service.
A website called NerdWallet.com has an entire section dedicated to articles about protecting yourself. This article, which explains the pros and cons of freezing your credit, is a good place to start.
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