Over the past few days we’ve had many clients mention their concerns about the Equifax data breach, which got us talking about how to protect your credit if it’s possible your personal information is at risk. And, as the number of impacted Americans continues to grow, it’s worth knowing what options you have to protect yourself from fraud.
Equifax built a Cybersecurity Incident website for you to see if your personal information has been impacted - check to see if your security was impacted here.
While some people are considering Equifax’s own credit monitoring service, another option that you have is to freeze your credit across all three major reporting agencies. But what does that mean, and how do you do it?
A Quick Explanation
Freezing your credit basically places restrictions on who can view your credit report. Once your credit is frozen only yourself, existing lenders, or their debt collectors will be able to see it, according to federal regulators. (Government agencies carrying out a search warrant or subpoena are still able to access your credit records as well.)
Once your credit is frozen, you’ll be given a PIN that would allow you to lift (or temporarily thaw) the freeze when you want to get a new line of credit, apply for a mortgage or do anything else involving your credit.
This won’t impact your credit score, and it won’t prevent you from receiving a credit report.
An important note: if you do place a freeze on your credit, the approval process might be delayed. If you can find out which credit reporting company a potential lender is using, you can lift the freeze for only that company.
Placing a Credit Freeze
To place a freeze on your credit reports, you will need to contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.
Equifax (800) 349-9960
Experian (888) 397-3742
TransUnion (888) 909-8872
When you contact each agency, you’ll need to provide your name, address, data of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live, but typically range from $5 - $10.
After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting agency will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN or password. You’ll need to keep this information in a safe place as you will need it if you choose to lift or thaw the freeze.
The Difference Between a Credit Freeze and a Fraud Alert
While a credit freeze locks down your credit, it might not be right for you. A fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. To learn more about fraud alerts, visit the Consumer FTC webpage on Credit Freezes here.
WrapManager Takes Data Security Very Seriously
WrapManager takes data security very seriously and we employ security measures to ensure that client information is not improperly accessed. We continue to stay abreast of the latest technological trends focused on keeping your information secure and we remain vigilant about your financial security.
It is disappointing that we continue to hear of very large companies that consumers have entrusted with their personal data have not implemented strong enough safeguards to prevent this information being accessed and who may wait weeks before notifying those potentially impacted.
Know someone else who might have been impacted by the Equifax data breach? Share this article with them and help protect them from the headache of identity theft.