Equifax, one of the three largest American credit reporting agencies, announced Thursday that cybercriminals breached a portion of its systems and could have access to the names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and driver’s license numbers of nearly 143 million people. Given the scope of this data breach, it is prudent that all individuals understand what actions they can take in order to protect their information and quickly react to any credit-related issues that may arise.
Our recommendation is to monitor your credit cards and credit report as closely as possible. You are entitled to receive one free credit report every year from the three largest American credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion), which can be done through www.AnnualCreditReport.com. In addition, you can safely monitor your credit report for free at www.CreditKarma.com.
Furthermore, you can also place a fraud alert on your credit report, which requires businesses to contact you before issuing any credit. Note that this feature lasts for 90 days and is renewable. Information on fraud alerts can be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert. If you believe that the aforementioned items are not sufficient, you can also place a freeze on your credit report, which remains in place until you temporarily or permanently lift it. Information on freezing your credit report can be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs. Keep in mind that a freeze prevents the circulation of your credit report, which businesses require to issue credit. Our view is that freezing your credit report is an extreme measure and likely unnecessary.
Please note that Equifax is currently offering a free year of credit monitoring through their credit monitoring product, TrustedID Premier. We do not recommend utilizing this service. Upon reading the disclosures for this product, it was found that if you in enroll, you are forfeiting your right to participate in any potential class action lawsuit that would be filed against Equifax going forward, which we do not view as a wise decision.
We will continue to monitor the situation surrounding the Equifax data breach and will be sure to keep you abreast of any potential changes to our recommendations.