About The Equifax Cybersecurity Breach
Equifax, a major credit reporting agency, recently announced a cybersecurity breach potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. Based on the company’s investigation, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017.
Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for one year of complimentary credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. The website also provides additional information on steps consumers can take to protect their personal information. You may also contact Equifax directly at 1.866.447.7559 with any questions.
How do I protect my credit reports?
If you’re concerned about someone gaining access to your credit report without your permission, you may consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your report(s). Even with a fraud alert or freeze, you should still actively monitor your accounts for fraudulent transactions.
Credit Report Fraud Alerts: When you have a fraud alert on your report, businesses must first verify your identity before issuing credit. To place a fraud alert on your report, contact one of the nationwide credit reporting companies (the company you contact must share the alert information with the other companies) and ask for the company to put a fraud alert on your credit file. This service is free to consumers.
Credit Freeze: A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. A credit freeze does not prevent you from getting your free annual credit report, keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you’re doing any of these, you’ll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it’s best to check with the credit reporting company in advance. A freeze also does not prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
To place a freeze on your credit report(s):
Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:
You’ll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live, but commonly range from $5 to $10.
After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.
To lift a freeze on your credit report(s):
In a few states, credit freezes expire after seven years. In the vast majority of states, a freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.