Friday, September 29, 2017

Data Breach: Lock or Freeze Credit

If you have had your credit information stolen or exposed to a data breach, such as Equifax, you need to monitor your credit and bank accounts.

The data breach at Equifax apparently compromised personal information in one of its credit monitoring programs (where consumers can "safely" have their credit monitored for unauthorized use) which included birth dates and social security numbers.  While they are now offering a free (and new) lifetime credit lock program where you control who has access to your credit information, I would be reluctant to trust them again.  Their initial response to the data breach was tardy and the initial data breach customer service website they set up looked like a phishing website.

If you have recently received notification that a debit or credit card is being replaced as the result of a data breach, you would be wise to assume it is probably Equifax related.

Immediately monitor your credit card and/or bank accounts twice daily.  You can use Credit Karma to monitor Transunion and Equifax and Credit Sesame to monitor Experian; both are free.  I would avoid any credit monitoring service which charges a fee.

For the most part, a credit lock program are designed to be continuing fee services and are marketed by credit reporting services, while a credit freeze involves an initial fee and a fee for each temporary lifting (should be $10 --- if you are over 65 years old, an active duty military, or a victim of identity theft it should be free).  The Illinois Attorney General provides information, including form letters for each credit reporting service, on what the fees should be for different individuals and I would expect other state attorney generals to also provide this information.  You should also be able to get non-state specific information from the Consumer's Union.

On the whole, you would probably be better off with doing a security (credit) freeze then getting netted by what is normally a more expensive credit lock marketed program.  Do the credit (security) freeze.

Update 10/3/17:

It may cost victims of Equifax data breach $4.1 billion to freeze credit.

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