What You Need To Know About The Equifax Data Breach
Each year in the US, approximately 7% of households become victims of identity theft. There are three main credit reporting agencies in the US, which are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. As you may have heard, Equifax recently discovered a security breach that affects over one hundred million consumers.
Was your information part of the breach?
The first step is to determine if your information was compromised. You can find this information on a web site set up by Equifax at equifaxsecurity2017.com.
Once you navigate to this site, click the “Am I Impacted” button, and then follow the prompts to enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your Social Security Number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
How can you check your credit report?
Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. This can be confusing if you simply google the process, so be sure to go to the correct site. The site annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized site to obtain your free yearly report. The only thing you don’t receive for free is your credit score. The credit reporting agencies require you to purchase your credit score.
What is Equifax doing to protect consumers?
Equifax is offering free enrollment in TrustedID Premier to all consumers. This is a credit monitoring service that is available today, free of charge for one year. You can find more information on how to enroll on the same web site where you can find out if you are affected by the breach: equifaxsecurity2017.com. However, regardless of being affected, this service is free to all consumers.
What else can be done?
Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. The downsides are a nominal fee for the freeze, as well as having to plan ahead for times you do need a credit check, such as when you buy a car.
To place a freeze on your credit report you will need to contact Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742), and TransUnion (1-888-909-8872), the nationwide reporting companies. Be sure to freeze all three for maximum protection. There is also a smaller credit reporting agency, Innovis (1-800-540-2505), that you should consider freezing as well.
To complete a credit freeze there is typically a fee varying between $3-10, depending on your location. In Nevada the fee to freeze your credit is $10 per bureau (unless your are 65+ years old at Experian and Transunion). The fee to temporarily thaw is also $10 per bureau (unless you’re 65+ at Transunion). The fee to permanently thaw is $10 at Equifax and Experian, but there is no fee at TransUnion.
If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
Also consider filing your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Note that the IRS will reach out to you via letter if there is any issue. They will not call or email you. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
And finally, as we always say, “If you think you might need an attorney, you probably do.” Contact us with question as soon as you possibly can.