The Equifax security breach affects some 143 million Americans, or nearly 60 percent of the U.S. adult population, making it likely the single largest and most dangerous hack in history. Here’s how you can protect yourself by initiating a credit freeze.
Anyone in the U.S. who has a bank account or who ever had a car loan or mortgage is likely affected by the Equifax hack, and sensitive information such as name, address, Social Security number and driver’s license number may have been exposed to hackers.
To see if you were affected, go to equifaxsecurity2017.com, scroll down to “Enroll,” and then select “Begin Enrollment.” You’ll need to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social.
If your information was part of the leak, you’ll see the following message: “Thank You – Based on the information you provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.”
They’ll offer for you to enroll in a credit protection service for free, but that service is through a subsidiary of Equifax — the company that botched your info in the first place. Even then, such services only warn you after an attack may have taken place.
As a result, consumers who want to take matters into their own hands should consider initiating a credit freeze.
To make a credit freeze truly effective, you’ll need to request one from all three major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
What is a credit freeze? Putting one in place limits access to your credit report. This makes it more difficult to do things like open a new bank account or get a loan. It also makes it difficult for a fraudster to steal your identity and open an account in your name.
As anyone who has had their identity stolen can share, it is a years-long, difficult process that will continue to cause problems when trying to do basic things like open a bank account, buy a car, or invest money. Putting a credit freeze in place does not affect a person’s credit score, and it can be lifted in the future with the use of a PIN number.
If want to put a credit freeze into effect, you can thankfully do so via the web. But remember, you need to put a freeze into place with all three bureaus for this to truly accomplish anything.
The process for all three is pretty self explanatory, though TransUnion requires an account registration — needless to say, create a very secure password. Experian, meanwhile, emails a PIN number, while Equifax makes the PIN available to print.
To begin the credit freeze process, you’ll need to visit the following links for the respective credit bureaus:
For those who would rather initiate a credit freeze over the phone, the relevant numbers are:
- Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
- Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742
- TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
Going forward, to make a financial decision such as opening a bank account, those under a credit freeze should enact a “temporary thaw” of their credit report. This is done by contacting the credit agencies at the above numbers.
You will need to contact the company who plans to run your credit, and find out which bureau they use. Then you can contact the bureau directly and request the temporary thaw, allowing your credit to be run for approval.
For more on credit scores and identity, see the OWI Labs intelligence report Bad Credit? No Credit? Big Identity Problem, which includes a proprietary framework for understanding the credit and trust scoring ecosystem based around one fundamental organizing principle: identity data. The report enables investors and entrepreneurs to gauge market opportunities and potential challenges emerging in the broad and dynamic credit scoring and trust assessment landscape.