[Updated January 31, 2018] Don’t forget to take advantage of the Equifax offer to help protect your credit! Today is the last day to sign up for free credit protection at Equifax. (link below)
About 143 million Americans have had their data exposed in the Equifax data breach. Other than checking in with the Equifax site to see if you are one of them, there are more steps you can take to ensure your credit is not at risk.
Some experts claim that with so many data breaches, it’s safe to assume that at some point, your personal information has been exposed. So, even if Equifax tells you that they don’t think your data has been compromised, it’s still a good idea to take steps to protect it. Here’s what we suggest you do, right now.
Freeze Your Credit
Freezing your credit prevents anyone from trying to open new accounts in your name. You will need to contact each credit bureau to institute the freeze, and should understand what freezing your credit really means before you do it. (We suggest you start with Equifax.)
When you freeze your credit report, you can still see it, as can your current lenders and government agencies. However, no one can run a credit check on you in order to open a new account until you unfreeze your report. To unfreeze your credit in order to open new accounts, it takes about three days after you contact the credit bureau. You’ll need to find out what bureau the lender you are applying with goes through, and contact them to temporarily unfreeze your report.
There are a couple of benefits to this. For one thing, you are preventing anyone from opening a new account based on your credit, but you’re also giving yourself some extra time to think about it before you open that new credit card you think you want. That prevents you from making impulse buys based on things like store discounts associated with applying for a new credit card.
To get started, we’ve provided the contact information for each credit bureau, including the lesser-known credit bureau, Innovis. Each company charges a fee to freeze and unfreeze your credit, but you may qualify for free or reduced pricing, depending on the state you live in. You can see if you qualify, here.
Now is also a good time to protect your personal information by changing your passwords. Your passwords need to be unique and not contain obvious information. Assume the worst about who has access to things like birthdays and social security numbers. Do your best to protect your accounts by following our simple guide on hack-proofing your password.
While you’re securing your accounts, why not secure your social networks, too? Facebook accounts are easier to hack than you might think. They are also easy to protect. Either remove your old phone number from your account or update it to a new one. That way, no one can use their phone to create a new password for your account and lock you out. You can learn more about this easy hack by reading up on it here.
Equifax Credit Protection
Because of the issue with data security, Equifax is offering free credit monitoring, but you have to sign up by the deadline. January 31, 2018 is the last day to sign up. All you need to do is go to the Equifax page and fill out the information there.
Whatever you do, we suggest keeping a careful eye on your credit report. Report any suspicious activity immediately, and monitor all your financial accounts carefully.