The equifax data breach that was recently announced is a nightmare for consumers and it cannot be ignored.
What Happened: Equifax data breach
The credit reporting company announced in September that the personal information of 145.5 million consumers had been compromised the Equifax data breach. It originally said that the information accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and – in some cases – driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. It also said some consumers’ credit card numbers were among the information exposed, as well as the personal information from thousands of dispute documents.
However, Atlanta-based Equifax recently disclosed in a document submitted to the Senate Banking Committee, that a forensic investigation found criminals accessed other information from company records. According to the document, provided to The Associated Press by Sen. Elizabeth Warren‘s office, that included tax identification numbers, email addresses and phone numbers. Finer details, such as the expiration dates for credit cards or issuing states for driver’s licenses, were also included in the list. The equifax data breach is therefore much more serious than was reported.
Equifax is one of three credit reporting agencies. Equifax, experian, and transunion produce your credit report or credit score. They basically control your FICO score, which can impact your credit and your ability to qualify for credit cards, auto loans, and getting a mortgage.
The equifax databreach is unquestionably serious. It exposed crucial pieces of personal data that criminals could use to commit identity theft, from Social Security numbers and birth dates to address histories and legal names. It has reportedly affected 143M people.
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How to check if you’ve been affected in the equifax data breach.
Visit the equifax data breach website.
Once you are there, look for the tab that says, “Potential Impact”
It will lead to a page that will ask for part of your social security number as well as your name. It will then tell you if you have been affected by the data breach.
Check your credit:
Free service to Check your credit score:
I would suggest you use a free service to check your credit score periodically. Credit Sesame is free to signup and takes only 90 seconds.
Once you get your report, check for errors. Finding and correcting just one could give your credit score a significant boost!
Equifax suggests you sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. It is providing free service for one year through TrustedID Premier — whether or not you’ve been affected by the breach. If you sign up for this “free” service, you could be giving up your rights on a future settlement with the company. I do not think this is a smart decision at all.
According to Equifax, my credit was affected by this breach. If yours was impacted, you should be checking your credit more frequently to make sure that no fraud has taken place. It is pretty easy to get a free credit report online or from a reputable credit card company. I will probably be checking my credit score every few months from now on. Identity theft is no joke and having a stolen identity will impact one’s credit score for many years.
Freeze Credit Report:
One inexpensive option is to freeze your credit report. You can protect yourself by immediately placing fraud alerts on your credit reports, according to credit experts. This means that a lender must contact you to verify your identity before it issues a credit card in your name. You can place an alert on your report for free by contacting one of the credit agencies, which is required to notify the other two. The credit freeze lasts for 90 days and can be renewed.
According to financial expert, Dave Ramsey, about 80% of credit card companies like Mastercard and Visa will not pull your credit report before issuing a new credit card. So, there is still risk of having identity theft even if you get a credit freeze. This is why it’s important to keep checking your credit score even if you aren’t involved in this data breach.
Identity Theft Protection
Dave Ramsey recommends paying for identity theft protection through Zander Insurance. I am seriously considering buying this identity theft protection. They offer a specific case worker for id theft. The cost is $75. Id theft protection is not cheap. Luckily, I no longer have a car payment. (I have no affiliate relationship with Zander Insurance.) The other credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) also offer identity theft protection coverage.
I researched a service from MfFico.com. And even though they offered me a hefty commission for sending my readers to their site, I cannot endorse their theft protection service. In my opinion, the Zander product is just as good at a substantially discounted price. I receive no compensation from Zander.
The Federal Trade Commission’s website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft, offers information about how to protect yourself against fraud.
I believe this is a big wakeup call for all consumers about the increasing possibility of id theft. There are inexpensive options like a credit freeze. Or, more expensive options like buying identity theft protection. But beware of companies that charge too much for the same service.
Either way it is our responsibility to keep checking our own credit reports to make sure that no one has committed id theft using our social security numbers to get new credit cards, etc… This is the unfortunate reality of the situation.
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