In yet another blow to corporate America, Equifax has belatedly let us all know – and by ‘all’ I mean nearly every adult in America – that our information has been stolen. Since these credit reporting agencies are repositories for virtually every number that is important to you – bank account numbers, credit card numbers, your SS number – this is completely alarming. (Also alarming is the fact that company executives claim they ‘didn’t know’ about the hack while they sold millions of dollars worth of Equifax stock.)
You can fight back by either placing a fraud alert at each of the credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Experia, and Equifax), or you can place a ‘security freeze’ on your accounts at these entities. You must place the freeze at every agency, or you risk leaving a hole to be exploited nefariously. You will receive a PIN either online or in the mail – keep that, or unwinding the freeze will be very time consuming. I decided to be a guinea pig for this exercise and visited each agency. Though all the agencies offer online forms to effect a freeze, none of these forms worked for me. I used the phone instead. Before you groan, I experienced no waiting on hold, as the systems are automated. In Oregon, there is a $10 fee for placing the freeze, with each agency.
The security freeze will not allow access to your credit report. It’s not appropriate for everyone – certainly you do not want to use it if you are in the middle of buying a home for instance – but the idea is it will not allow anyone to use your information to open a new account – including you. You can temporarily ‘unfreeze’ your report if you need to, but that will require the same process that signing up for it in the first place did.
All told, I managed to place security freezes at all three agencies in about 35 minutes. Not bad. We’ll see if I start receiving calls from entities that are accessing my credit report! For further information, visit https://www.howtogeek.com/209396/how-to-prevent-identity-thieves-from-opening-accounts-in-your-name/