Last week Equifax, the oldest of the three big credit bureaus was breached, impacting nearly 20% of its consumer base totalling 143 million people. Large data breaches have occurred more frequently over the years. Back in 2015 Anthem Health had a breach that affected over 80 million patients, Ebay suffered attacks to 145 million customers in 2014 and Target fell victim to $3 billion in losses due to system wide hacking in 2014 also.
I personally hate to talk about problems unless solutions are in the same conversation. Here I detail three simple solutions in the event you were a victim of Equifax’s or any other breach. These can be of great benefit even if you were not exposed and can be good to have in your arsenal down the line.
Freeze Your Credit: This little known strategy is very powerful when it comes to protecting your credit profile. Anyone can freeze their credit by calling one of the three large credit bureaus in Equifax, Transunion, or Experian and giving them some personal info to prove your identity. There may be a nominal fee depending on the state you reside, however New Jersey residents can perform the freeze free of charge. There are small fees for other services related to freezing your credit. Read more at this link to get cost information.
Once your credit is frozen, only your current creditors can view your credit report, blocking all new creditors from seeing your personal information. If you need to apply for any new form of credit just call the bureaus and ask to have the freeze lifted. You will need the PIN that you initially created when you started your freeze to carry out the “thaw”. Here are the phone numbers for the three bureaus in the event you need any of their services, Equifax 1-800-349-9960, Transunion 1-888-909-8872, Experian 1‑888‑397‑3742.
Get Your Annual Free Credit Report: This is one of the easiest things that any human can do to monitor their financial health. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and create an account. It is available for free each year with additional copies at your disposal for an additional $15. Be sure to thoroughly read your report. Make sure everything matches up and if there are any discrepancies dispute them as soon as possible.
Acquire a Credit Monitoring Service: There are many options to chose from in this emerging space. Companies like Identityforce, Identity Guard and Life Lock are all major players. The credit bureaus all offer similar services as well. The key to choosing which company to go with will depend on ease of use, cost and range of services offered. This will keep you on top of any activity involving your credit with email or text alerts sent directly to you in case something takes place.