By now you may have heard that Equifax, one of three companies that provide credit reporting, has experienced a massive data breach. Equifax is providing an online method to determine whether your data has been compromised but based on the statistical probability, we strongly recommend that you assume your data has been breached and take action accordingly.
The website for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides straightforward and helpful information as to what to do. There are many good articles online with details about the breach but this is a good place to start.
Based on the FTC information and other reading, we strongly recommend that you do the following:
Read the FTC blogpost – this website provides good guidance and all the information you will need to take action.
Check your credit reports – this will require that you enter personal data which can be unnerving, but the link provided on the FTC blogpost is legitimate.
Place a credit freeze on your credit files with all three companies – again, the FTC blogpost provides a FAQ and the phone numbers to contact the three companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). I placed a freeze with all three companies this morning and each took 5-10 minutes and all were automated.
- Equifax – there is no charge with this company (likely waived due to their breach); a PIN will be assigned to you; you will receive a confirmation number; both will be sent to you following the call.
- Experian – $10 fee which you will pay with a credit card; a PIN is not provided during the call but will be sent to you following the call.
- TransUnion – $10 fee which you will pay with a credit card; you choose your own PIN; confirmation will be sent to you following the call.
[Update 1/23/2018: Fees for initiating a credit freeze have been waived since this publication]
This freeze will remain in place until you decide to remove it. Keep in mind that if you decide to apply for a credit card or mortgage in the future, you will have to lift the freeze temporarily in order to do so. Be sure to securely save your PIN. You will need it to lift the freeze.
It is always alarming when a large financial services company reports a data breach, and this is a big one. We strongly recommend that you take the time now to protect yourself.
Please don’t hesitate to call with questions or concerns.