Equifax and You

I want to reach out to you with a brief update on this issue which you all have probably heard about over the past few days.  While we were tackling other technology issues, I helped two clients walk down the path of mitigating their damages from this horrific lapse in security.

First things first.   Equifax is one of the three major credit reporting agencies (along with Experian and Trans Union).  You have a record with them.   When you apply for credit (credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.)  or your credit card is reviewed periodically for limit increases or decreases, a financial institution pulls your record from a bureau such as Equifax.   Whether that is a soft pull or a hard pull or such an inquiry affects your credit score is beyond the scope of this e-mail.   I want to stick to where this situation intersects with my world — the world of technology. 

In late July, bad actors accessed data from 140 million records owned by Equifax.  They are claiming that half of their records were breached.   This data included social security numbers, names, addresses, and license numbers.   In addition, some 200,000 customers credit card numbers were exposed.  Whether we like it or not we are all “customers” (or victims if you would like to put it that way) of Equifax. 

From their website https://www.equifax.com/personal/ , Equifax has provided a link for you to sign up for 1 year of free credit monitoring. The name of that service is called Trusted ID.   Once you start the enrollment, you are told to come back to a website 3 days later to complete your enrollment in the service.     You will have to decide whether or not you want to sign up for it.  Keep in mind, Trusted ID is owned by Equifax.  You will have to determine whether you want to trust an Equifax run solution.   Fox guarding the hen house?   You have to go with what you feel comfortable with.  Let me give you some alternatives.

Other steps you can take should you not wish to go with Trusted ID include putting a fraud alert on all of your credit reports by visiting the websites of Equifax, Trans Union (https://www.transunion.com/), and Experian (http://www.experian.com/).   Fraud alerts are free.

If you want to take a more extreme step, you could put a credit freeze on all 3 of your credit files.  A freeze is a complete lock down.  No one will be able to access your files with a freeze.   Should you wish to apply for credit, you will need to ask the banks which files they need to access.  You will then need to temporarily unfreeze the files needed.  Freezes and unfreezes are typically $10 per occurrence.   These actions can all be taken using the provided websites.  

Another option is credit monitoring from a third party company not affiliated with one of the credit bureaus.   The most commonly advertised solution is Life Lock (https://www.lifelock.com/), which costs roughly $10 to $20 per month.  Another less expensive option is provided by Zander Insurance and recommended by financial guru Dave Ramsey ( https://www.zanderins.com/idtheft2).   Either of these options may give you the distance from Equifax that you are looking for. 

Please be safe and consider your options.