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HAve you been exposed to identity theft?

Recently, 143 million American consumers had sensitive personal information exposed due to a data breach at Equifax that lasted from mid-May through July. Information stolen includes names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver's license numbers. Additionally, the credit card numbers of about 210,000 people and 'dispute documents' with personal identifying information of 180,000 people were compromised.

Your immediate action is required to protect yourself from identity theft. We've compiled steps to take and resources to help you avoid life-long consequences.

1. Find out if you are at risk

Visit this Equifax website to determine if your information was compromised: equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/. You will need to enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Ensure you are on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection when accessing this site. 

If your information was exposed, you can get a free year of credit monitoring and other services from Equifax. Please note, the enrollment for free monitoring services will expire on November 21, 2017.

The free services Equifax is offering include:

1.  Copy of Equifax credit report
2.  Credit monitoring and automated alerts of key changes to your credit report
3.  Scan of suspicious web sites for your social security number
4.  $1M identity theft insurance to pay for out-of-pocket expenses if you are a victim of identity theft
5.  Ability to put a freeze on your credit report

Please note, Equifax initially limited the legal options consumers had, but it has since updated its policy to say: "enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not prohibit consumers from taking legal action."

If your information was not exposed, do not get lulled into a false sense of security. Unlike credit card theft, the data theft of social security number can have life-long consequences. To avoid this, we advise you enroll in one or multiple of the several free credit score services available at:  consumerismcommentary.com/get-credit-report-free/

2.  Add a 90-day security alert to your credit file

A 90-day Security Alert with TransUnion warns lenders that you may have been a fraud victim. Lenders will know to contact you directly before any new loan or credit is established in your name. When you set up the security alert with TransUnion, they will notify the other 2 major credit bureaus. The alert lasts for 90 days and you can renew it when it expires.

3.  CONsider placing a security "Freeze" on your credit file

A credit freeze is highly effective against new credit being opened in your name, but doesn't do anything to prevent thieves from fraudulently using your existing lines of credit. You'll need your name, current address, birthdate, and Social Security number to initiate a credit freeze. Depending on where you live, there may be a small fee (generally $10 or less per bureau), although Equifax has agreed to waive its credit freeze fees until November 21, 2017 as part of its response to the data breach.

Each bureau, upon processing your freeze request, will send you a letter containing a PIN, which you'll need when you eventually decide to lift the freeze.

Helpful considerations when placing a security freeze on your credit file:

  • Adding a security freeze to your credit file may delay, interfere with or prohibit the timely approval of any request or application. This includes: new loans, credit and mortgage, insurance, rental housing, employment, investment, license, utilities, digital signature, Internet credit card transactions or other services, including an extension of credit at point of sale.
  • A security freeze doesn't prevent you from opening a new credit account, or otherwise allowing a lender, employer, landlord, etc. to check your credit. You can lift the freeze temporarily, either for a set time or for a particular party (like a landlord or lender). This can take a few days and often comes with a fee, commonly $2-$10 per agency. You must contact each of the three credit bureaus and they have three business days after receiving your request to lift or remove a security freeze.
  • The freeze will have no effect on your credit score and you'll still be able to access your own credit report if you choose to do so.
  • Businesses you already have a relationship with can still access your credit report for account review purposes. Your credit information will still be released to your existing creditors and any debt collectors. Even if a security freeze is on your report, your information may be used for prescreening as provided for by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • A security freeze is not 100% fail-safe. Creditors can issue credit without pulling a credit report.
  • If you choose to temporarily lift or remove the freeze, you will be provided a personal identification number or password to use. Do not lose this PIN or password.

4.  REview your credit report

Review your credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus listed above to ensure that no fraudulent activity currently exists. A free copy of your credit report once a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com or by phone at 877.322.8228.

5.  limit the sharing of your credit information

To opt out of pre-screened offers from credit, insurance and telemarketing organization for five years or permanently by visiting optoutprescreen.com or call 888.567.8688.  This limits credit reporting bureaus from sharing your credit file information without your authorization. 

 

 

 

 

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