It’s been over a year since the Equifax Data Breach. The one that made us all desperately scramble to protect our personal information that may have already been confiscated and sold on the dark web.
Immediately after the headlines started making me feel vulnerable I read many articles and blog posts about what to do next. Below are a list and descriptions of the things I did and didn’t do.
To date, my credit remains in tact and untampered with…as far as I know. I hope the same for you.
As an estate planner, I advise people of how to protect their assets. And who doesn’t think their identity is an asset? That being said, please keep in mind that the following isn’t legal advice. It’s not a roadmap to credit protection. It’s just a synthesis of information I gathered, distilled and implemented.
1) I immediately requested and retained hard copies of credit reports from the following reporting agencies and used them as a baseline:
2) Every four months I go to annualcreditreport.com (One can also call 1-877-322-8228) and request one of the following three reports so that I end up looking at each agency’s report annually. I am entitled to one free report per year per provider. April = Equifax. August = Experian. December = Transunion. I request my free annual credit reports from Innovis, ChexSystems and SageStream directly.
3) I put a credit freeze on my account with each of the providers listed below. I called and requested the freezes. You can also write to them or do it on line. It costs $5 per vendor each time I put on or take off a credit freeze. I temporarily lifted the freezes by requesting $5 one-time access codes from each service. I successfully applied for additional credit by doing this.
- Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 03048, 1-800-685-1111.
- Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013, 1-888-397-3742.
- TransUnion Security Freeze, Fraud Victim Assistance Dept., P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016, 1-888-909-8872
- ChexSystems, Attn: Security Freeze Department, 7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125, 800-887-7652
- Innovis Consumer Assistance, PO Box 26, Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026, 1-800-540-2505
- SageStream, LLC Consumer Office, P.O. Box 503793, San Diego, CA 92150, (888) 395-0277
4) After the 2017 breach, Equifax determined that my information had been infiltrated. Even so, I did not pay for or even accept the “free” service offered by Equifax. In order to register, I was asked to provide a bunch of personal information and I was uncomfortable giving it out…again! Particularly to Equifax.
5) Since September 2017 when I froze my credit, I’ve noticed that I get much less junk mail! I imagine this is because companies can no long surreptitiously check my credit. It appears that since they can’t tell whether I have good credit, they no longer randomly send me credit card applications or catalogs for expensive items I’ll never buy.
6) I didn’t put Fraud Alerts on my accounts. My research indicated that unless I went to the police, told them that my identify had been stolen, and received a crime report indicating as much, I couldn’t provide sufficient documentation to extend the term of my requested Fraud Alert longer than 90 days. The credit freeze is permanent. I have been very happy with the results of the freezes I placed on my credit.
Implementing all this protection took me a lot of time. A lot!
But, since doing so, I sleep much better.
I hope you do, too.