David Smith with Frost Bank shared with us about how we should respond to the Equifax security breach. Last October, 143 million files were hacked in the breach. The most vital information like birth date, Social Security number, name, and address was obtained: all a real crook needs to create an identity.
In response, you can take the approach that you will hide in the crowd and hope you won’t be affected. Frost Bank recommends a more aggressive response: visit the 3 credit bureaus and “lock” your credit report. That is the best response right now. If a crook wants to steal from you, they have to get into present accounts and you will notice the activity so they won’t get very far. Otherwise, they can apply for credit in your name with the crook’s address on it. If you have locked your credit report, the report won’t be given and the credit they are asking for will be denied. That is the protection you are looking for.
The 3 credit bureaus are Transunion, Equifax and Experian. If you go to the website of one of the bureaus, they will have links to the other two.
Each adult must freeze their own credit reports. Two of the bureaus will lock your report for free, the other one charges $6 or $7.
What if you need to get access to your credit? The true creditor who needs to pull your credit report will call you and tell you which bureau they need, then you can go and unlock it for a few hours. This takes a little work, but if your identity gets stolen, it is a huge hassle!
David also recommends that everyone regularly check all bank and credit card accounts online. Check them daily, just like brushing your teeth! Make it a habit; when problems hit, they hit really quick! The quicker you address it and get a bank or whatever creditor involved, the less hassle it is. When you receive your monthly statements, open them and make sure there is nothing there that you did not authorize.
Finally, David recommends that everyone get the free app, Credit Karma, which will track 2 of the 3 bureaus. It will take you 5 to 10 minutes to set it up. You can set it to give you responses if there are breaches or problems. Are there any inquiries on your credit that you don’t know about? Once it is set up, you can check the app every day and it will just take you a few seconds! It will allow you to read your score, even if your credit is locked down. It does not affect your credit; it is not a “pull” of your credit.
A credit “freeze” is an older term which has a legal aspect whereby the credit bureau service will compensate you if your credit is breached; it is like insurance and costs more money and takes more time to freeze and unfreeze. You should be able to lock and unlock your credit report on your phone; it is pretty user-friendly. If your credit report is locked, it remains locked until you unlock it.
Concerning services like Lifelock, remember they are all reactive protection services; there is not really a great way to be proactive. They can help, but they don’t protect you from everything. You are paying a good sum to have someone answer the phone and help you if there is a problem. Is that good? Yes, particularly if that really means something to you. However, David has people get in front of him who think that is going to protect them from everything. That is not really how it works. It is like driving a car; someone can hit you and then you have a problem. If you think it is a good service and you like what they say, then go ahead and sign up with them.