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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Identity Theft Protection Following the Equifax Breach


Bryce L. Jorgensen, Extension Specialist in Personal and Family Finance
Empowering People, Enhancing Lives

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also has some great resources on what you can do to protect your identity: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/identity-theft-protection-following-equifax-data-breach/  and how you can dispute errors on your credit report: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-do-i-dispute-an-error-on-my-credit-report-en-314/  


What You Can Do To Protect Your Credit Data

Steps you can take to protect your personal information from being misused:

Find out if your information may have been exposed. You can do this by entering your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number at Equifax's website. The site will tell you if you've been affected by the data breach - https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/.
  
You can enroll for a free year of credit monitoring. Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. Equifax consumers are eligible for year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll - https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/trustedid-premier/

Contact the nationwide credit reporting companies and review your free credit reports from each of them. You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You can request a copy from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Be sure to monitor your accounts for any unusual activity. Accounts on your credit reports that you didn't open, incorrect personal information on your credit reports, and credit inquiries from companies you've never contacted are all potential signs of fraud or identity theft.  If you find an errors on your report you can dispute them here: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-do-i-dispute-an-error-on-my-credit-report-en-314/ 

Consider placing a credit freeze. Placing a credit freeze on your reports makes it more difficult for a thief to open a new account in your name. Remember that a credit freeze cannot prevent a thief from making changes to your existing accounts - https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs

Consider setting a fraud alert. This requires creditors to verify your identity before issuing a credit card, opening a new account or increasing a credit limit on an existing account. A fraud alert will not prevent a lender from opening credit in your name the same way a freeze does, but it does require lenders to take additional steps to verify your identity first - https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert



Experts Recommend Freezing your Credit

Experts also recommend that consumers freeze their credit to reduce their risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Freezing your credit has to be done individually with each of the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). By freezing your credit, you prevent potential creditors from accessing your credit file, thereby preventing identity thieves from opening accounts in your name. However, credit freezes will not deter non-credit related frauds such as tax refund identity theft and health insurance fraud and cannot prevent a thief from making changes to your existing accounts.
Credit freeze requests can be made online, by phone, or by certified U.S. mail. Expect to devote some time to this task. Below is contact information for each credit reporting agency for each method of contact to request a credit freeze. Also see http://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide/

Online

Telephone

Equifax: 800-685-1111
Experian: 888-397-3742
TransUnion: 888-909-8872
Innovis: 800-540-2505

U.S. Mail
Equifax: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian: Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

The costs of security freezes vary from state to state and may vary depending on whether someone is or is not a victim of identity theft.

For mailed security freeze requests, include the following information in a cover letter format:

¨        Full name (with middle initial) and former name, if applicable
¨        Current address and former addresses within the last five years
¨        Social Security number
¨        Full date of birth (month, day, year)
¨        Signature
¨        Photocopies of two forms of identification such as a government-issued identity card and proof of residence such as phone bill or utility company bill.

Adapted from Barbara O’Neill, Rutgers Cooperative Extension

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