Saturday, September 23, 2017

Equifax Security Breach - What To Do

You have most likely heard about the security breach at Equifax, which is one of the 3 top credit bureaus that store your personal information.  Not only were most adult's credit information in America stolen, but if you ever had to send in or upload your driver's license, that was also stolen.  If you don't know what these bureaus have in regards to your personal information, you can read it below.

What Personal Information Credit Bureaus Have

  • Full name and other names you have used
  • Social Security Number
  • Addresses past and present
  • Employers past and present
  • Salary information
  • Driver's license (if you ever had to prove your identity to one of the bureaus)
  • Credit accounts open or closed 
  • Mortgage accounts open or closed
  • If you pay on time, what your balances and credit limits are
  • How much total credit you have available and how much you are utilizing
  • Any debt collections (including medical bills sent to collectors)
  • Any illegal or derogatory information such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, tax evasion, repossessions, etc.

As you can see, that is a lot of information that these bureaus have that you never gave to them.  So, how did they get it?  Banks and businesses give them our information and then they buy our information when we do business with them.  I see a lot of regulations coming up over this and probably more thumbprint readers, face scanners and who knows what else.

So, we all have lost all of the above information and it is out there and there is no turning back.  At any moment, someone could steal your identity and you would have to go to great lengths to prove it wasn't you.  Obviously, you will need some form of protection because of all this, so, what are your options?

How To Protect Your Identity

  • Place a security freeze on your credit with all 3 bureaus - You may have to pay a small fee for placing a freeze with TransUnion and Experian but Equifax is doing it for free.
  • Place a fraud alert with one of the bureaus - only do this if you are not doing a freeze and from what I've read, you only need to notify one bureau and the rest will automatically be notified from the one.
  • Enroll in Equifax's free protection that covers you up to $1 million - not like they are going to have the ability or even a business left to protect us, but it is free and gives us some sort of feeling of protection.
  • Monitor your credit report frequently - you can get a free copy from each bureau of your report from once a year.  You could also sign up with companies that give you access to your reports to monitor them or pay these companies to monitor them for you.  This isn't needed if you froze your credit.
  • Buy identity protection - there are many companies offering identity protection out there but when fraud happens, they make you do all the work of calling, filing papers, etc.  It can take over your life!  There is one that I know of that is a full-service company and will do that work for you in the event your identity is stolen, that is Zander Insurance.  You may have heard about them from Dave Ramsey, as he highly recommends them and uses them.  You can cover your whole family for $145 a year.
  • Stop bank and credit offers in the mail - opt out at of getting pre-screened bank and credit offers and even insurance offers through the mail to prevent identity theft.  You can do an electronic opt-out for 5 years or a permanent one by sending in the form by mail.

What To Know About Freezing Your Credit

  • You won't be able to apply for any type of credit (cards, mortgage, car loan, etc.) while your credit is frozen.  However, you can temporarily "thaw" and even "unfreeze" your credit at anytime from the 3 bureaus in the event you need to.
  • Your employer or landlord will not have access to check your credit in the event you apply for a new job or a new place to rent.  You will need to unfreeze your credit to do these.
  • Freezing doesn't guarantee your identity isn't stolen.  Thieves can steal your identity in other ways as well, such as: medical fraud (pretending to be you for a surgery or hospital stay by using your SSN), Tax fraud (get ready for a crazy tax year come January!!  You may find someone has filed a fraudulent tax form in your name and got a refund), etc.  This is why you also need identity protection like Zander that I mentioned above.

You can't really stop the thieves completely now, but you can hopefully be covered in the event they do commit fraud against you, by having a company to pay the costs and do the work to restore your identity.  Thanks Equifax for creating the largest personal information breach in American history.  Now that it is out there, it will always be out there until the day you die - but hate to tell you, there is even fraud for people who have died!

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