In the wake of the Equifax data breach, there has been much discussion about the effects of the breach, and how to protect yourself if you were affected. Even though I confirmed that I was not affected by the breach through Equifax’s website, out of an abundance of caution I chose to freeze my credit reports with each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. You can check whether you were impacted by the Equifax breach here: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/am-i-impacted/.
Although I’ve (thankfully) never been a victim of identity theft, I chose to freeze my credit reports because unfortunately I’ve witnessed clients who have experienced identity theft – it’s expensive, time-consuming, and can quickly ruin your financial independence. For a window into what can be involved in an identity theft case, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website at www.IdentityTheft.gov. To me, the small headache of lifting the freeze when I want to open a new account is a worthwhile step to help avoid a devastating identity theft situation.
Once a freeze is placed on your credit reports, you are given a personal identification number (PIN) which you are required to use to temporarily lift the freeze in order for someone to run your credit report. Obtaining a credit report is a required step in order to open any sort of credit account or finance a purchase. That way, if someone pretending to be you tries to open an account with your information, they are prohibited from obtaining your credit report without first lifting the freeze using your confidential PIN.
I chose to freeze my accounts online, but you can also accomplish a freeze with each of the major nationwide credit reporting agencies over the phone as well. Online, it took about 15 minutes and cost a total of $20.70 to freeze all three of my credit reports. As a part of the process, you need to provide personal identifying information and pay the applicable fee via credit card. Only Transunion required me to create an account.
Below is the contact and cost information for each of the major credit reporting agencies:
Cost – $10.70
Cost – $10.00
Cost – Free
Once you’ve obtained your PIN for each of the above agencies, be sure to save it in a secure place because it is required to temporarily lift the credit report freeze. If you have questions about this process or how it may impact you, feel free to contact us.