As a result of the recent major data breach at Equifax, we have received many questions as to how to handle such an event. Questions as to how to protect yourself from any real damage taking place. Up to 143 million people were compromised. The information that was stolen could include the following:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your phone number
- Your social security number
- Your credit card number
This means that 1 in 2 people are affected! For this reason, we recommend that you consider implementing a credit freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. A credit freeze is a proactive way to protect your personal information. Lenders, creditors, landlords, employers and others will be blocked from accessing your credit reports therefore identity theft becomes increasingly difficult for the “Bad Guys”. One important thing to remember is that a credit freeze will stay in effect until you contact the credit bureaus to temporarily lift or remove it all together.
What are the setbacks of implementing a credit freeze?
While a credit freeze is a great way to protect your information, there are additional considerations. First, placing or lifting a credit freeze sometimes involves a fee. The fee, if any, is usually nominal. Second, if you decide to apply for new credit, you will need to plan ahead. You will need to either go online or contact the credit bureau via phone to lift the freeze. This usually involves you identifying yourself with a PIN number for added security.. and last, there may be a waiting period for the lift to take effect. All things considered, we believe the extra security is worthwhile.
How do I freeze my credit?
You must freeze your credit at each of the three credit bureaus, specifically Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Mike & Chris both completed their credit freezes with each of the three bureaus in less than ten minutes! You can do this too by opening the links provided below and following a few easy steps :
What else can I do besides a credit freeze to protect myself?
Along with freezing your credit, we recommend that each client follow these 5 steps below:
- Step 1: Be on alert; Pay attention to any unexpected calls or mail. Especially if you are asked for money or your credit card number.
- Step 2: Monitor your credit reports; View your credit report every year and check for errors.
- Step 3: Monitor your financial accounts; Set up alerts at each one of your banks to monitor for suspicious activity.
- Step 4: Initiate a fraud alert; If you are a victim of fraud, notify the credit bureaus.
- Step 5: Do not open any suspicious emails or hyperlinks; Found within emails before verifying their authenticity with your sender.
Lastly, enjoy this funny and educational episode of HBO’s, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” about the Equifax breach [WARNING; contains adult humor and language, please do not watch if this may be offensive to you]
Please do not hesitate to reach out us at any time to discuss the breach and/or implementing a credit freeze.
Mike & Chris