Day 5 – October 6th
I’m going to keep this one nice and short. Earlier this year Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the US was breached and over 140,000,000 people had their entire credit history stolen (That’s right – about 43% of the entire population.) I don’t say this lightly, but this is one of, if not the, largest data breaches in our countries history. Credit history includes a lot of personal information, such as your Social Security Number, past addresses, all previously held accounts, all inquired credit accounts, any bankruptcy information from the last seven years, and a bit more.
If you are an adult in the US that has ever held or inquired about a credit card, car, bank account, any loans, cell phone account, electric or water services, internet, jobs, schools, rentals – basically if you are a functioning adult in the US – you are affected! Congrats BTW, real elusive club you just joined.
What I want to hit home to my readers is this: this breach isn’t a normal data breach like what happened with Yahoo or Playstation in the last few years. Those companies didn’t carry anything nearly as important as your SSN, much less carry information about your entire credit history. At most, those breaches made your debit or credit information compromised and the worst thing that could happen would be that fraudulent charges were put on the account and then reported to the credit company. The Equifax breach is a whole different ball game. You can’t just cancel a card when literally all of your credit history was stolen. And though it is possible, getting a new SSN is an incredibly long and tedious process, and one that the US could not possibly handle on the scale of this breach.
With that said, here is a list of everything you can do to try to mitigate some of the damage that was caused by Equifax. Even though only one company is responsible for this obscene failure in data security, every American adult will have to look out for themselves to fix the mess that Equifax caused. All credit for these incredible instructions goes to user Velostodon on Reddit. Here are the processes that you should take if you think that your information might have been stolen
- Get a copy of your credit report today. Don’t trust CreditKarma, or FreeCreditReport, or any other 3rd party site. The only site that the Federal Government has authorized to actually collect credit report data is Annualcreditreport.com. You can get one credit report from each of the agencies free every year.
- Freeze your credit right now. Call the three credit agencies (yes Equifax, the reason for this whole mess, is one of the credit agencies you need to call) and put a freeze on your credit. Freezing your credit means that nobody, including yourself, can inquire into your credit for any reason until you actively unfreeze the account. This does not affect current credit accounts – so if you have current loans or credit cards, those will be unaffected by the freeze. A few things to note, however:
- This does cost money. It will cost about $30 to freeze and unfreeze all three of the accounts. However, as Velostodon so eloquently put it, “$30 and a few minutes on the phone with an automated system is a hell of a lot easier than the hell that will be your identity being stolen.”
- When you freeze an account, you’ll either get or make a special code or PIN that you can then use to unfreeze the account. Don’t lose this code! Any time you apply for a credit card, loan, rental application, etc. in the future, you will need to unfreeze using this code if you still have a freeze on your credit.
- The numbers to initiate a credit freeze are:
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: 1 888 397 3742
- Lastly, put a Fraud Alert on your credit accounts. If you don’t do a credit freeze, at the very least you need to do this. Go to this site to learn more about how to initiate a fraud alert.
- This is just a preference thing, but if you are doing all of the above to safeguard your credit, you may as well Opt out of those annoying prescreened offers for credit that you are always getting in the mail. Click here to learn more about how to opt out.
I hope this information helps to bring even more awareness about the Equifax breach and potential actions that people can take to safeguard their credit and their future.
On a funnier note, if you are wondering why the picture on this article is of the Monopoly Man sitting behind a classic James Bond villain, this is due to the amazing trolling work of one lawyer that dressed up as the Monopoly man during the former Equifax CEO Richard Smith’s Senate Banking hearing. She got prime real estate during that meeting to call attention to and help defeat S.J. Resolution 47, which she is calling the ‘get-out-of-jail-free-card” for companies like Equifax, and clearly she made a lasting impression. If you want to read more about her, she did an AMA on Reddit today that is definitely worth the read.