Freeze Your Credit?
This phrase was used, but I never heard it so much until the Equifax hack in 2017. When we google “Equifax hack”, we are flooded with articles. It’s scary since Equifax is one of the major consumer credit reporting agencies.
Equifax is important. If you go to a bank for a loan or credit card, they check your credit. Equifax is not the only company to pull from — they could use Experian or TransUnion — but Equifax is a choice. Your bank may only pull from one credit bureau or they may randomly pull from all three. So, Equifax has a mass amount of information about consumers.
First let’s talk about the Equifax hack. Information from more than 143 million consumers were compromised by cybercriminals. Yes: 143 million (some state 148 million). And the information taken wasn’t just names, addresses (both current and prior), credit card numbers, birth-dates, and driver’s license numbers — which would have been bad in itself; it was also social security numbers!
Clark Howard did a great video standing outside of Equifax. He called it “a massive data breach — the worst in history of the modern era”.
Article after article stated that compromised individuals could feel the affect and be at risk online for the rest of their lives. The discussion was massive with congressional hearings and expert witnesses with a theme being the social security number is outdated and a new system needs to be installed.
But, in the meantime, what can we do? Let’s walk through steps to get you started if you want to freeze your credit.
Help is here: Freeze your credit
What is a credit freeze?
A freeze restricts access to your credit file. This makes it more difficult for a cybercriminal or any thief to open new accounts in your name.
The focus: be proactive and work to prevent theft.
Note: you still have control and “lift” a freeze when you want to get a new loan or credit card – which I talk about in the next post.
How much does it cost?
The government stepped in. Previously the fees varied between credit agencies and between states. But as of September 2018, the fees are now FREE.
Effort could help!
As you are thinking of setting up a credit freeze, you may think “this is some work … I don’t know if I want to put in the effort”.
Another point to remember is that other companies have had consumer information stolen. It’s just not Equifax — which is major. Mashable wrote an article “Every retailer that has suffered a massive data breach, from Target to Home Depot”. They discuss:
- Home Depot
- Whole Foods
- Panera Bread
- and more
Steps to freeze your credit
Contact all 3 credit reporting companies. Yes, we may be angry at Equifax, but they are still around.
We can do a credit freeze via phone or online (and mail but that will take much longer). We will receive pin numbers and need to make sure to keep them.
Note: if you call, it can be a little unnerving. They ask for personal information to verify you are legit and it may seem endless.
There are different things we all need to do. Credit Freeze is a big one. It is proactive.
Another step should be to check your credit score and look at your loan and credit balances frequently.
Our information is out there, but we can take steps to make it a little better.