After the Equifax Breach, How Do I Protect My Credit Report?
What lessons can you learn from the Equifax data breach? Believe it or not, there are many. Learn how you can protect your financial information better.
In the wake of the startling news that Equifax, one of the biggest companies to manage consumer credit, experienced a large-scale data breach that occurred from mid-May through July, you may now be wondering how to protect your credit information.
The data breach affected 143 million U.S. customers, 209,000 of which had private data stolen, such as, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, credit card numbers and driver license details. The possibility of having all that information in thieves hands is disturbing, but luckily there is one way to safeguard your credit data.
What Can You Do Right Now?
The Federal Trade Commission recommends a tool called credit freezing. Sometimes referred to as security freezing, you can limit access to your credit report to deter thieves from opening up new accounts under your name.
A majority of creditors require seeing your credit report before issuing a new account. If your report can’t be viewed because of a credit freeze, a bogus account can’t be opened.
To request a freeze on your credit report, these nationwide credit reporting companies can fulfill your request:
Does Credit Freezing Affect Your Credit Score?
Rest assured, your credit score is unaffected by a credit freeze. You can still do the following with relative ease:
- Get your free annual credit report.
- Open a new account, apply for a job, buy insurance, or rent an apartment. You just have to temporarily lift the freeze for a period of time to do these things, and then have it applied once you’ve been hired or found an apartment, for example.
A secondary measure is to set up fraud alerts in case someone tries to set up an account in your name.
Credit freezing can discourage cybercriminals from opening up new accounts, but it won’t stop thieves from altering your existing accounts. Which is why it’s important to continue watching your bank, credit card and insurance statements for any suspicious activity.
There may be little comfort in the aftermath of this incident, but the good news is Equifax is waiving credit freeze fees for the next 30 days — so take advantage now.