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Shame on me. Because as security-savvy as I have professed to be, I have not taken action before the Equifax breach to make sure my identity is protected.
Yes, my identity. Because it is not the fact that the breach released into the hands of yet-unidentified cybercriminals (possibly impacting close to half of the U.S. population) my credit card info. It is because these criminals have social security numbers. And while you may cancel credit cards and change your address, your social security number stays with you for life. If you have any doubt as to how dangerous this is, please read https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf. Another older, but informative article regarding identity and social security can be found here: https://www.theverge.com/2012/9/26/3384416/social-security-numbers-national-ID-identity-theft-nstic. I personally don’t expect that there will be any great wave of social security fraud. I think it will come in dribs and drabs for the years to come. And that is frightening to me.
So, here is the list of actions I took for my husband and myself. It is up to YOU to read the fine print and decide if my actions are in keeping with yours. Also, be forewarned that the sites that have credit reporting also want to rope you into monthly payments for “protection”. Sounds like the mob to me. I did not sign up for any 30-day trial or monthly protection. I only paid the amount of money that I indicated in the steps below.
And for those who ask, do I really have to do all this? No, you do not have to. But to not to frightens the living daylights out of me.
This blog post outlines beautifully the actions to be taken and why. After researching methods of protecting oneself, I was impressed with the information provided here: http://www.jillonmoney.com/equifax-data-breach/. I have used it as the basis for what I have done.
So, here are the steps I took. If it is too mind-numbing, do a step a day.
1 Take advantage of Equifax’s free one-year fraud protection service. Do not rely on whether or not you receive word that you have been impacted. Assume you have been and sign up for the fraud protection. https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html. Keep in mind that this service is a.) only good for a year and your social security is out there for much longer and b.) this protection is only for access to Equifax.
2 Freeze all access to your credit reports with each of the three credit agencies, starting with Equifax. Remember that all freezes must be lifted when you apply for a loan, a credit card, or an increase in your credit limit. THEN PUT THE FREEZE BACK. Here is the link to freeze Equifax inquiries: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp. Hopefully, you have been able to access the site, since Equifax is getting slammed and you may have difficulty accessing it. Try, try again until you succeed.
3 Freeze your Experian reports: https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/freeze. PLEASE NOTE: The TransUnion site has a link which lists by state, the amount of money the credit companies can charge you for freezing inquiries https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/credit-freeze-information-by-state . Although TransUnion and Equifax do not charge for the freeze, Experian does–in my case, $5/person for Massachusetts residents. So you will have to pay for the Experian freeze.
4 Freeze your TransUnion credit report inquiries using this link to the theTrueIdentiy site, owned by TransUnion. TransUnion makes a distinction between a lock and a freeze. The lock is what I used: https://membership.trueidentity.com/tucm/orderStep1_form.page?&__utma=202473940.1731163726.1505152247.1505227424.1505299342.5&__utmb=202473918.104.22.1685300649510&__utmc=202473940&__utmx=-&__utmz=202473940.1505164925.3.2.utmcsr=annualcreditreport.com|utmdsid=Cj0KCQjw6NjNBRDKARIsAFn3NMqCCUdiZSNVPyp8dZAuLpWddU92EP5NN1R5b8u1QWoORcDQqP_h04oaAtR4EALw_wcB|utmccn=(referral)|utmcmd=referral|utmcct=/requestReport/processNextReport.action&__utmv=-&__utmk=116402693 There are two things to note in this action: a.) If you already have a TransUnion account, you need to make sure you set up a different account for True Identity (you will be prompted if this is the case b.) I have hit a snag in not being able to set up a lock for a friend with absolutely NO clue on the site as to why. I am still working on this, but please let me know if you are one of the unfortunate ones who cannot put a freeze (lock) on this report. I was able, however, to put a freeze on my husband’s and my credit reports.
5 Get your free credit report now, and make a habit to do this yearly. You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit players–TransUnion, Experia, and Equifax. This is NOT your credit score, but your report. You can get all three at once here https://www.annualcreditreport.com/requestReport/requestForm.action. Obtaining them one-by-one at each site is nasty, so get all three at this site. When you fill out the form, be sure to click each of the three credit companies to get them all. Save each report. Any timing out of your session in obtaining these reports may be due to the volume of traffic hitting the Equifax site, so keep at it–you need these reports.
Now here is a <nasty> surprise we had. My husband and I were sitting pretty never checking our credit report, just tickled pink with our credit scores. When we checked our reports we were distressed to find that in his were indicators of questionable access NOT related to this breach. NOTE TO ALL: Don’t let a breach be the only reason you look at this stuff. Look at it each year. Put it on your calendar. What we discovered had to be addressed because it added debt he had NOT incurred to his report (and it only showed up in ONE of the credit companies).
If you have taken these steps or others, pat yourself on the back. It is time-consuming and often mind-numbing. Kudos!
Other sites of interest: