Ep.29 - SOML: How I Protect My Credit After Equifax's Data Breach
Equifax's credit data breach impacted as many as 143 million consumers, which is about 1 in every 2 Americans. So why does it matter to you and me? Because now someone has all the data necessary to open credit cards and steal our identities without us knowing. Here are the 4 steps I took to protect my credit.
STEP 1 - CHECK IF I AM IMPACTED
Equifax offers a way to check if you are impacted. Here is my take on it. I am not very confident in Equifax's ability to assure me whether my data was stolen or not. Often, it is impossible to know if an intangible product, like data, was stolen or not. Why? Unlike a physical item, which is gone when stolen, the original copy of a piece of data remains even after it's stolen. With that being said, you should still check. If Equifax tells you your data is compromised, you need to immediately freeze your credit report, which is explained in detail in step 3.
Here is the link to check if you are impacted. Once you are there, click on the red box "Am I Impacted?"
STEP 2 - THINK IF YOU NEED TO USE YOUR CREDIT IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS?
If you need to use your credit, say for buying a car, a house, opening a new credit card, etc, you need to push up the timeline, and do it as soon as possible, so you can minimize the window for any identity thief to open accounts under your name. Immediately after you are done using your credit, you need to freeze your credit report.
If you don't need to use your credit, go straight to step 3 - freeze your credit reports!
STEP 3 - FREEZE ALL 3 CREDIT REPORTS
Unfortunately, you have to freeze 3 credit reports on three different websites, you can't just do it all in one place.
How To Freeze Equifax Report: Link here. Because Equifax really messed up big time, you can freeze your credit fairly easily and it is free of cost. After you are done, you will get a PDF file. SAVE THAT FILE!!! It contains a pin number, which is the ONLY way you can unfreeze your credit in the future. I know, it is very inconvenient that you can't even choose your own pin.
How To Freeze Transunion Report: Link here. Compared to Equifax, Transunion is better in the sense that it lets you create your own pin, so you can easily remember it. However, it comes at a cost, which is $10 to freeze your credit report. That part sucks. I believe it will also cost money when you unfreeze your report.
How To Freeze Experian Report: Link here. Similar to Transunion, Experian lets you create your own pin, and it also charges you $10 to freeze your credit report.
Big thanks to John Oliver, who created a place to aggregate all three links. Click on the picture to link out.
STEP 4 - USE CREDIT KARMA (FREE) TO MONITOR YOUR CREDIT REPORT
I have been using credit karma (not sponsored) for a long time. I use it because it is free, and it allows me to see my credit score, as well as credit inquiries.
If you see a strange credit inquiry, not made by you, you need to contact the credit reporting agencies to dispute it. Don't just take my word for it, there is a detailed review of all the pros and cons from Forbes.
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