Equifax data breach and freezing your credit

16 Sep

The hack and data breach

Last week, Sept 8th, Equifax one of the three major credit reporting company announced they had been hacked a massive amount of data had been stolen between May and July 2017.

We’re getting used to hearing about data breaches but this one is one like no other.

Usually, we’re upset because our credit card numbers have been stolen, or some personal information has been stolen that allows hackers to piece together information about us that could be used to steal our credit.  This time, the data leaked is all the information a hacker can use to steal our credit.  The information stolen is from a company that deals with validating our credit. They have everything!

How this happened is unimportant for most of us (although it was due to pure negligence).  What is important is what you do.

Look, all the information needed to steal your identity and create lines of credit in your name is out there in the hands of hackers.  That means if someone was to use this stolen information and open a line of credit you would have a hard time trying to get a loan in the future and you’d be on the hook for paying thousands if not hundred of thousands of dollars back to a bank for money you did not borrow. It can take years to get your identity back.

Freeze your credit.

Do this immediately. Freezing credit stops anyone from borrowing money against you.  It also stops you from borrowing money against your name but you can suspend the freeze while you take a loan and then freeze it again.

Once your credit is frozen you should have a pin to unlock it. It’s very important to save this pin.

Currently it does cost some money to do this, $10 each company per person if you live in California.  However, there’s currently law being proposed to eliminate this fee and to refund those who have paid.

There are three companies to deal with: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

There are two ways to freeze your credit:

  • automated telephone service
  • over the Internet

Based on experience I’d use the internet for Equifax and Experian and the telephone for Transunion.

What you need

Have the following prepared:

  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth
  • Residential address
  • A credit card to pay with

Transunion requires a 6-digit pin so have one prepared.

  • Randomly choose those 6 digits.
  • Do not choose something you know. You need it to be random. Write it down.

Tips:

Remember to do the credit freeze for you and others in your family, spouse, etc.

Equifax and Experian ask to provide an optional email address because it’s “quicker” to get the pin to you. Do NOT do this. Talk about insecure. Do NOT provide an email address and have them mail this information to you. Save or print the information they provide because without the pin you won’t be able to unfreeze your credit.

I prefer to use the phone for Transunion because they require you to sign up for an account. They require an email address, password and other information. I do not want to provide additional information like this and it’s unneeded over the phone.

Go freeze it now!

Equifax

Experian

Transunion

Done

By now hopefully you’re done. Remember to do this for both you and your spouse and other family members – with their permission of course!

Now, this means any time you want to apply for credit: opening a new credit card; a car loan, home improvement loan – any type of loan – you’ll need to unfreeze your credit. The companies do offer a temp unfreezing for this kind of thing so do read up into that.

Hopefully this protects you.

Additional reading

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *