Identity Theft & Credit Protection
The 2018 Equifax data breach may have compromised 143 million social security numbers and other personal data. It was yet another reminder that everyone should take some simple steps to help combat any risk of identity theft or other fallout from this or any other breach.
First, with respect to that specific breach, you can inquire about whether your data was breached here.
However, our experience with this so far is that you are likely to get a message saying that you “may” have been breached. We recommend assuming that you were.
What is a Credit Freeze?
The simplest step you can take is to “freeze” your credit reports with the three major agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The effect of this is simply that no one can apply for credit in your name without the freeze being lifted, including you.
You can freeze for all three at these links:
- Experian - The first time you create a freeze with Experian, you should be issued a PIN. Do not lose the PIN as you’ll need it every time you want to freeze and unfreeze. Experian also requires the input of a lot of information every time.
- Equifax - The first time you go to freeze, you’ll create an account with myEquifax. From there on out, you will sign in using myEquifax and you’ll see the screen to allow you to check your credit score, freeze/unfreeze your report, etc. If you follow the link to manage your freeze, you’ll be able to specify if you want to temporarily or permanently unfreeze your report, set a date range for a temporary unfreeze, etc
- TransUnion - Like Equifax, you’ll create an account with TransUnion and then you can just login to freeze/unfreeze your account with temporary date ranges.
We'd urge you to all do this. You can return to these links, login, and unfreeze anytime for a specified period of time to allow a credit check. Needless to say, remember to keep your login information somewhere safe. Further, Experian will assign you a reusable PIN. DO NOT LOSE YOUR PIN.
What else can I do?
Finally, there are paid services, like LifeLock, that are other worthwhile considerations but services like these do cost money.
These are practical, mostly free, and simple steps against what could be a very real threat to identity theft or misuse of your credit.