The recent Equifax hack has made 143 million people’s confidential information vulnerable. So you may as well assume you have been hacked. This is basically identity theft on steroids! Credit is a double edged sword. These days, everyone is a number and you need to have a good one. Having credit increases hacking risks, but with knowledge there are precautions that can be used for protection.
How to Protect Your Credit & Confidential Information
Again, we are assuming that if you have credit, then your social security number and identity are at risk. So it is important to be vigilant in the fight for your credit as well as your assets! Follow these tips and most importantly be proactive.
- Check all 3 credit bureaus
- Update passwords & pin numbers
- Review bank & credit card accounts often
- Beware of scams
- Review TrustedID terms of service before signing up
- Freeze your credit
Check Your Credit Report & Not Just Equifax!
Lately, there are so many sources that will provide a credit score to you. Sites include creditkarma.com, freecreditreport.com, credit cards like Discover, and Nerdwallet. Sure, it is good to know your credit score, but there are other things to know. First, many sites give you a free score, yet charge for another service in order to get the score. Next, many sites offer free credit scores because it is a way to get you on their marketing list. Advertisers then contact you for offers. Another thing to remember is that credit scores vary depending on the type pulled. Check out “Why is my mortgage credit score lower than my free credit scores?“. Finally, remember that pulling a credit score is not enough to protect you from credit breaches!
So the most important “to do” is to review your ACTUAL credit reports, not just the credit scores. Also, there are 3 major credit bureaus to check. Although Equifax had the data breach, check all 3. Remember that not all companies or banks report to all 3 credit bureaus. Some companies will report to just one bureau. For instance, a regional bank or credit union may only report to Experian.
But the hack was just to Equifax, so why should I check the other 2 bureaus? Well, it was social security numbers, dates of birth, drivers license numbers, among other personal identifying items that was stolen. So that means identity thieves can use this information to open accounts about anywhere. To check all 3 credit bureaus for free once per year, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. It is recommended to check credit once per year or more often if you have reason to expect risky activity.
Update Passwords & Pin Numbers
Besides using good sense when protecting confidential information, it is important to have complicated passwords. But even strong passwords and pin numbers could be broken. Especially after this breach, it would be a good idea to change passwords and pin numbers. No matter what, don’t use simple ones like “password” or “123”!
Review Bank & Credit Cards Often
Alright, you are checking your credit reports once a year. But, it is imperative to be vigilant much more often! These days many have access to online banking, so keep an eye on new charges. If something looks suspicious, investigate it immediately! Call the bank or credit card company to verify the charge is legitimate or not. For those that do not use online banking, review the monthly statements in detail. Either way, look over all charges in detail which could save money, credit issues, and frustration.
Beware of Scams!
It makes no sense but bad people take advantage of people in need. What should you expect? There will be phone calls and emails asking for your information to help protect you from this breach. The problem is there are reputable companies and there are phishing companies. Phishing is when someone tries to obtain your information through a fraudulent site that appears to be legitimate. So don’t click on links in emails unless you absolutely know it isn’t spam or phishing. Additionally, be wary of websites that you enter confidential data. There will undoubtedly be sites which appear to protect the public from this breach but it is just another crook.
Review Trusted ID Terms of Service Before Signing Up
Equifax announced this data breach through a national press release as well as created a website to further educate consumers on the issue. Through this site you will learn of an Equifax owned entity called Trusted ID Premier. Equifax is offering this service for free in order for consumers to better protect their credit, assets, and identity. I saw one article that mentioned when consumers sign up for this service, that it could exclude the consumer from a potential class action lawsuit. There is no telling if that is true, so research this before signing up.
Use a Credit Freeze to Protect Yourself
A great way to prevent others from establishing credit in your name is to freeze your credit. Equifax, Transunion, and Experian offer this service at a very minimal charge. The way it works is that creditors are not able to pull your credit without you lifting the credit freeze. Therefore this reduces the chances of accounts being opened in your name without your knowledge or permission. In order to freeze your credit, contact each of the bureaus as below:
- Equifax: 800-349-9960
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- Transunion: 888-909-8872
We hope that these tips will help prevent credit issues and keep in mind that our team of experienced loan officers are happy to offer credit consultation. Our goal is to help more achieve the dream of homeownership!