Update: This post was edited on Sept. 18 to clarify the types of fraud alerts.
By now you’ve probably heard that more than 143 million Americans were affected by a massive Equifax data breach. And I was one of them.
Equifax is one of the three major credit bureaus, along with Experian and TransUnion. These agencies are the gatekeepers of your credit report, which means they have access to all of your credit information – name, birth date, Social Security number, credit cards, loans, and more.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, this isn’t my first credit hacking rodeo. My information may also have been compromised during the 2013 Target, Michaels, and BlueCross BlueShield hacks.
So, here’s what I did…
I checked if I was potentially impacted using Equifax’s TrustedID website.
If you haven’t done so yet, check if your information may have compromised using Equifax’s TrustedID website. When I put in my information, I received this message: “Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.” Equifax will only tell you if you “may have been impacted” or you “were not impacted,” so it’s not a 100% guarantee. Additionally, some people have reported getting random results when entering made up names and information.
I requested my credit reports (but only got one so far).
Next, I put in a request through AnnualCreditReport.com (the only authorized website to request a copy) for all three of my credit reports. After trying on and off for a few days, though, I’ve only managed to get one because increases in requests are overwhelming the sites. Experian generated my report immediately. TransUnion keeps giving me a message that they’re overwhelmed and I should check back later. Equifax doesn’t even load anything at the moment. I’m going to keep trying to get all three, but for now, I reviewed everything on the Experian report in detail to make sure there’s nothing suspicious.
I set a fraud alert on my credit reports.
Once I had my credit report, I set a fraud alert through Experian. You can set an initial security alert for 90 days for free. If you’re in the military, you can set an active duty alert for up to one year for free. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft and have a valid identity theft report, you can set an extended fraud victim alert for seven years.
The good thing is that you only need to set an alert with one credit bureau, and they have to alert the other two by law. Alternatively, you could also set a credit freeze where all three credit reports will be taken out of circulation and require you to provide a PIN anytime there’s an inquiry. Equifax is currently waiving all security freeze fees for a limited time.
I did not sign up for Equifax’s free TrustedID Premier Credit Monitoring.
Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring; however, I decided not to opt in this time. First, one year isn’t that long (though having a year of credit monitoring is better than having no credit monitoring at all). Secondly, there’s some confusing language in the terms of service that may or may not preclude you from joining a lawsuit against Equifax. Lastly, the service will only monitor your Equifax report.
I signed up for credit monitoring service.
As a kid, I saw the LifeLock commercials and wondered who was paying for this product. It turns out the answer is the adult version of myself! Identity theft is becoming way too common – 1 in every 16 U.S. adults was an identity theft victim in 2016 – and I’ve been possibly compromised too many times in recent years. I researched the best credit monitoring services and decided on LifeLock for my needs. There is a cost involved, but, for me, that is money invested in ensuring that my future financial goals can become a reality.
Obviously, when your information is potentially compromised, there are a lot of things to consider – including the possibility that it may amount to nothing. If you’re worried about the long-term effects of the Equifax data breach, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, and at the end of the day, you’re not alone. More than 143 million of us are in this together!
What are your biggest concerns when it comes to the Equifax data breach? Tell us in the comments below!