The Equifax Credit Bureau announced last week that cyber criminals obtained personal details (name, social security, address, birthdates and credit card information) of approximately 143 million US consumers during the period of mid May through July 2017. This is neither the first nor last such hack we will see in our modern ultra-connected age.
Our clients and friends should be reasonably concerned about these breaches, but not panicked. 1100 data hacks were recorded in 2016, and breaches in 2017 are running at a pace 40% higher than 2016. Your data is already out there, but it still takes time and effort for the data to be exploited.
Cyber-criminals go after the easiest victims. We recommend the prudent step of freezing your credit reports with Equifax, Transunion and Experian. This process lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That's because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can't see your file, they may not extend the credit.
The freeze process can be done in 3 five minute phone calls to each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:
- Equifax - 1-800-349-9960
- Experian - 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion - 1-888-909-8872
You'll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information.
After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze. From the Federal Trade Commission.
Does a credit freeze affect my credit score?
No. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score.
A credit freeze also does not:
- prevent you from getting your free annual credit report
- keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you're doing any of these, you'll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it's best to check with the credit reporting company in advance
- prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
Can anyone see my credit report if it is frozen?
Certain entities still will have access to it.
- your report can be released to your existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf.
- government agencies may have access in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
How do I lift a freeze?
A freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.
If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit reporting company the business will contact for your file, you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular company.
If you have any questions, please call us at 347 580 5280.