We want to share our thoughts on how to protect identity during Equifax breach. We talk about a lot of subjects related to finances and frugal living, but sometimes situations just arise that we really feel important to address. This Equifax data breach is one of those.
UPDATE: This article was originally published in September of 2017.
The bold is an update nearly 2 years later! As a result of this breach, Equifax as agreed to a global settlement with the FTC. That means that around 143 million people are qualified to receive some sort of settlement. You can check EquifaxBreachSettlement.com to find out if you qualify. Most every that is on the list will be entitled to a $125 cash payment. Some will be qualified to receive more. You can find all of the details in this link to the FTC HERE.
Originally article, September 13, 2017:
By now you have probably heard of the very scary breach at Equifax a few days ago. It is one of the biggest personal information breaches of all time based on a couple of factors:
- 143 million people’s information has been breached.
- The sensitive information accessed on this breach is much more severe more than many former ones because the identity thief has EVERYTHING.
Here’s what you need to know that others now know about you
This breach released information on other’s:
- Full legal names
- Social Security Number
- Current Address
- Prior Addresses
- Driver License numbers
- Credit Card Numbers
Note that not ALL of this information was released on all 143 million people, but the breadth of the information breached includes all of these data points. With the breach of this information, your entire identity can be easily stolen.
Here’s how to check if your credit and identity are in danger
If you want to know if you are at a potential risk, all you need to do is go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. But before you sign-up for anything they offer, we would suggest reading our recommendations below.
Here’s what you SHOULDN’T do
Equifax is offering a free 1-year credit monitoring service called TrustedID Premier. DO NOT DO THIS. We repeat, do not sign-up for this service from Equifax. Why?
- When they initially offered this service, there was a “legal terms of agreement” couched in the fine print that by signing up for this service from Equifax, you exempt yourself from legal and class action lawsuits created due to this breach. In other words, if there is a class action lawsuit, if you signed up for their free credit monitoring service, you would not be allowed to be a claimant. They said they have since removed this…however, there are MUCH better options and we don’t completely trust that you would not longer be exempt. Don’t fall for their traps to ultimately protect themselves. We don’t trust this if they had an intent in the first place to take legal authority off their backs. They couldn’t be trusted with keeping your information safe in the first place, so don’t trust them to monitor it and not protect themselves from legal action either.
- It is only a free service for one year. Once your information gets in the wrong hands, one year really means nothing. Your name, SSN, Birthday, etc. NEVER EXPIRE or changes. That means you will honestly be vulnerable forever. It stinks. But they can steal your identity in 5 years, in 10 years in 15 years, etc. One year is a laughable free service.
Here’s what you should do to protect your identity during the Equifax breach
There are three major things you need to do to protect yourself and your identity both in the immediate and in the future.
1. Freeze your credit
Do this first and do it FAST!
What does a credit freeze do? It basically makes it to where potential creditors cannot receive a copy of your report, thus likely GREATLY reducing the chance of an identity thief taking credit out in your name because a potential creditor will have to see the credit report. If they can’t access it, they will not extend credit in nearly all cases. This does not mean that it isn’t possible as each creditor has different requirements and there are those “no credit check” types of creditors. It will not protect you from those, but it is a HUGE help.
You will need to go to each of the three bureaus to freeze your credit and each will likely charge a fee from $5-$10 each, a fee that is different in each state (some states are free), to freeze your credit. This is the only step in this list with a fee we recommend you take. Equifax should really be paying the credit freeze fee for those that wish to freeze their credit since it is their breach in the first place.
Here’s the three bureaus to freeze:
Equifax did provide an update today that they will offer fee-free credit freeze for 30-days. It’s helpful in the immediate, but sort of useless at the same time. Like we shared above about the one year service, 30 days really does not do much. After that, you will have to pay the specified fee for your state to freeze it permanently.
If you want to use your credit yourself (like for cell phone, internet or other services, not to get more credit – hint, hint ;-)), then you will need to pay the fee of about $10-$15 to temporarily unfreeze it for the credit check purposes, but this should happen so infrequently that the $10-$15 fee to temporarily unfreeze should be more than worth the peace of mind. Just know that you will just need to ask the company which bureau they use to check your credit to know which one to unfreeze.
Again, there will be fees associated with this step, but it is an important step to take to secure your financial future and worth the fees (again, we are thinking Equifax SHOULD pay for it!).
2. Sign up for Free Credit Monitoring with Free Identity Theft Protection
There are a few places to get free credit monitoring, but you want credit monitoring with free identity theft protection.
That’s where we will recommend CreditSesame’s FREE service HERE. The reason? It gives you all of that and more, including getting your credit score and credit analysis for FREE to know where you currently stand and how you can improve.
Plus, with the free identity theft protection and credit monitoring, you will receive both protection and alerts if anything on your credit changes, including credit inquiries. This is a super important step to help prevent fraud.
3. Request your annual Free Credit Report
You should and might as well claim your free annyal credit report, but let us tell you that this isn’t really going to do much with the current situation at the moment, but this third tip is really a reminder that you can get a free credit report each year to ensure nothing has been added without your consent up to this point.
Why won’t it help in the immediate?
Because it often takes 30 days for your credit report to be updated with the latest credit updates, because you get it once and if there were no changes today, you have to wait a year to check it again, which will be too late at that point.
However, it is always a wise idea to get that free detailed report today anyway and a reminder to do so.
Quick Summary to Protect Identity from Equifax Breach
We encourage you to take the steps necessary to protect you and your family’s financial futures. 1. Freeze your credit with all three bureaus , 2. Sign-up for free credit score, credit monitoring and identity theft protection HERE, 3. Request your free annual credit report HERE.
All of these combined steps will provide a bit more insurance to ensure additional safety and security for your credit and identity with the lowest possible cost.
Disclaimer: Please note, we are not professional financial advisors, but merely a real-life couple with thoughts on many financial matters that we like to pass along to you, but it is always a wise idea to consult an expert in the field on this or any topic of expertise to decide exactly what you should do in your situation.