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Equifax Security Breach

Equifax estimates 143 million U.S. consumers are potentially affected by this security breach. Since the initial announcement of the breach, there’s been much news coverage and recommendations from various sources about how you can best protect yourself.

It appears consumer can't be certain of what was ultimately stolen during this data breach. This information is shared with you so you may proceed with vigilance, rather than fear. It's ultimately up to you to determine what steps you’d like to take.

This information may help you make a more informed decision about how you proceed.

I’ve heard that Equifax has a site that will tell me if I may or may not have been compromised, but I’ve heard that site has given consumers inconsistent or misleading results. How can I be sure my information has or has not been compromised?

Unfortunately, this is true. There have been reports of Equifax’s site - https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com – providing information that may be confusing or inaccurate. The safest approach is to assume your information was compromised.

I heard if I sign up for the complimentary credit monitoring through Trusted ID Premier, I’m waiving my legal rights against Equifax for causing the breach. Is that true?

The terms of service that consumers are required to accept prior to enrolling in the TrustedID Premier credit monitoring service does include a provision that states the person enrolling has waived his/her right to sue as a part of a class action suit, requiring all disputes go through individual arbitration. However, after consumers raised concerns about this, Equifax issued a public statement saying that the contract language in that agreement will not apply to this cybersecurity incident.

What will signing up for credit monitoring do for me?

Credit monitoring does not prevent thieves from using your identity to open new lines of credit. It is designed to notify you after a theft has occurred. The service should notify you if you become a victim of identity theft and then help you through the process to resolve the situation. This may include guiding you through the steps you need to take to have the fraudulent activity removed from your credit reports and reimbursement for out of pocket expenses you may incur due to legal costs.

What else can I do to protect myself against identity theft or cybercrimes?

  • Actively and regularly monitor your bank and credit accounts for unauthorized activity.
  • Request and review your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action to learn more and request your free report. Be cautious of other sites promising free credit reports. They’ll often try to trick you into ordering something else.
  • File a security freeze with each of the credit reporting bureaus. Learn more about this below.
  • File a fraud alert with each of the credit reporting bureaus. Learn more about this below.

What is a security freeze?

Also known as a credit freeze, this tool enables you to restrict access to your credit report. Creditors will not be able to pull your credit report, which should prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. If you want to open a new line of credit after freezing your credit (such as applying for a car loan, credit card, or home loan), you’ll need to temporarily “thaw” or unfreeze your report. You can work with the creditor to identify which credit bureau they plan to access and then you can unfreeze that report by contacting the bureau. This typically takes 24 hours or less. If you decide to take the route of a credit freeze, you can avoid the use of the Equifax breach site completely.

Visit these FAQs, to learn more about credit freezes, including how to place a freeze on your credit reports.

Links for each of the bureaus:

Equifax Experian Innovis TransUnion

Is there a cost to freeze my credit?

Depending on where you live, they may be fees associated with freezing and “thawing” your credit report. These fees range from $0 - $15 per bureau, although this tool is typically free if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Consumers Union has compiled a listing of applicable fees by state and consumer classification. As of September 13, 2017, Equifax is now offering the credit freeze service at no cost through November 21.

Does a credit freeze protect lines of existing credit?

A credit freeze does not protect existing lines of existing credit. They are designed to ensure that no new lines of credit are open under your name.

Have you placed a security freeze with Equifax since Thursday and obtain a PIN?

Many consumers were signing up for the security freeze service with Equifax. When you sign up, you'll be provided a secure PIN, which is used to lift the freeze or remove it all together. Unfortunately, the PIN was generated using the date and time you registered; for example, 201709131002. This is not very secure. They have since changed this approach and made them random. If your PIN is the date/time stamp, we encourage you to reach out to them and get a new PIN generated.

What is a fraud alert?

A fraud alert requests that creditors contact you for verification before opening a new line of credit. Unfortunately, they are not legally required to do so, and in some cases, they don’t adhere to this request. Fraud alerts only last 90 days, although you can renew them as often as you like.

Is there a cost to adding a fraud alert?

There is no fee for adding a fraud alert.

Are there other resources I can look at for additional information?

Federal Trade Commission – Consumer Information on Identity Theft

Consumers Union’s Guide To Security Freeze Protection

KrebsonSecurity – The Equifax Breach: What You Should Know

KrebsonSecurity – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Security Freeze

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