Equifax Data Breach
Tuesday, Dec 11, 18
Chances are you were one of the 143 million consumers that were affected by the Equifax data security breach. You can verify if your data was breached by clicking this Equifax verification
Advice to consumers is running wild. Below are my 5 tips to help you understand how to stay safe. Keep in mind, you will not be getting a new social security number so it is important you understand what is going on. This is your life and you are always the best line of defense.
- SCAMMERS ARE MAKING THIS BREACH WORSE
DO NOT answer any calls from Equifax. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately. Scammers are out in full force making this historical data breach worse. Scammers know how to alter Caller IDs and believe me, Equifax IS NOT calling you. Do not give your private data or financial information to anyone that is calling you that you do not know.
- EQUIFAX OFFER
Equifax is offering free credit monitoring and ID Theft for the next 12 months. Be careful, they may try to switch this into a monthly fee after the 12 months. You can go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ to enroll in their free service should you choose. BE CAREFUL; do not go to other links that scammers may use to steal your private data.
- FREEZING YOUR CREDIT REPORTS
An option many consumers are using to try to minimize the risk of ID Theft is to Freeze their credit. This option has been around for many years but is seldom used. I for one have never used it nor will I. When you freeze your credit, you basically take it out of circulation to potential new creditors. This will help if someone is trying to falsely apply for credit in your name. However, freezing your credit can create a number of hassles. First, it is not free. You often have to pay the fee to freeze your credit and then again to unfreeze it. Fees vary based on where you live but typically cost between $5 – $10. Keep in mind, each credit reporting agency charges you this fee. Second, applying for new credit can be hard because you have to unfreeze your credit before a new potential creditor can access your credit. Removing the freeze can take up to 3 days. At the time you freeze your credit, the credit reporting agency provides you a random PIN number which is used to unfreeze your credit. If you lose this PIN number, unfreezing your credit can become much more difficult.
- PLACING A FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT
Fraud alerts have been around for a long time. You can place a FREE fraud alert on your credit by calling any one of the 3 credit reporting agencies and simply requesting that a fraud alert is added to your credit report. The other two credit agencies automatically get notified to add this Fraud Alert. Your fraud alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days. After 90 days, you can call again and repeat this process for as long as you wish. The benefit of a Fraud Alert is that it notifies potential creditors that you may be a victim of fraud and that they should take steps to verify your identity prior to approving any new credit requests. Fraud Alerts are a method used to prevent ID Theft.
- HOW CAN MY BREACHED DATA BE USED?
The bad guys can use your name, social security number, date of birth and other data in different ways. Over the past number of years, the number 1 form of ID Theft has been Tax Return Fraud. Scammers file fake tax returns in your name and they collect bogus refunds on prepaid credit cards that can’t be traced. I recall the IRS stating the best way to avoid falling victim to Tax Return Fraud is to file before a thief does. If you are a victim of this, it does not mean that you won’t get a refund that is due, it just means it will take longer and more work on your part.
My advice to all consumers is to be aware of what is going on with your financial life. Every month check your bank statements and credit card statements and report any unauthorized charges immediately. There are so many safeguards in place for you as long as you detect fraudulent activity quickly. In 2003, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act was passed allowing consumers access to their credit reports annually for FREE. VERY few consumers take advantage of this. I suggest consumers stagger their free credit reports by accessing their credit report from one credit reporting agency every 4 months. By staggering the reports every 4 months, you have free access to your credit report on a regular basis. You can obtain your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you find something that does not belong to you on your credit report, there are laws to help you take corrective measures. You can play it safe by either freezing your credit reports or by adding a Fraud Alert. The Fraud Alert is free and I prefer this overpaying the credit reporting agencies to freeze my reports. Just keep in mind Fraud Alerts only stay active for 90 days.
You can reach any of the credit reporting agencies by calling the numbers below:
Trans Union 1-800-680-7289 Experian 1-888-397-3742 Equifax 1-800-525-6285
Like us on Facebook to receive future consumer credit tips. Call 412-564-5370 with any questions or comments. Cure My Score is a full-service consumer company offering Credit Repair, Debt Options, and ID Theft Protection/correction.