By now, most of us have heard of the recent data breach at the credit bureau, Equifax. If not, there is a good chance you will be receiving a letter from them letting you know that your social security number and other information was accessed by an unauthorized party. That’s because this event affected 44% of the U.S. population. There are a few items to consider as a follow up to the initial stories on this topic and that is what the following information covers.
There was some controversy about signing up for the offered free credit monitoring and other identity protection services from Equifax. So you might be a bit skeptical of taking them up on it after this, but it’s certainly worth consideration. However, be sure to read the fine print for any service you sign up for, no matter what the service is doing. In this case, there was initially some detail that required those who chose to use the service, called TrustedID Premier to pay for the service automatically once the free term expired. However, that clause has since been removed from Equifax’s terms of service with respect to this breach. So, you can sign up and take advantage for free; but still read the terms of service thoroughly and don’t expect this to completely protect you from identity theft.
If you are still hearing that signing up for the credit monitoring service will exempt you from any class action lawsuit that may arise, that has changed. Equifax has removed that language from its Terms and Conditions, so you can now take advantage of the service without worry.
Consider the options if your social security number was accessed by unauthorized parties for any event; not just this one. Credit monitoring services do not prevent your identity from being stolen. They will alert you if someone tries to obtain credit with your information. Essentially, it gives you a heads up right away so you can take action to remedy before it gets worse. Identity theft protection services, which were also offered, will help you through the process of correcting any fraud, but again won’t prevent it from happening.
On the other hand, consider a credit freeze, which will prevent credit from being taken out in your name. It blocks any attempt to access credit and the credit bureaus will alert you if someone tries. A credit freeze is recommended to those who have had their social security numbers stolen and who are not applying for credit in the near term. That is because a freeze will do just that; freeze access to your credit so no one can access your report.
That said, if a time occurs where you will need to provide access to your credit for some reason, a credit freeze can be lifted and re-implemented if needed. Just make sure to check the fine print to find out how much lead time is needed to do this and if additional costs are involved. In some states, there is a cost associated with freezing credit.
An important detail about taking advantage of any credit monitoring service is that if there already is a freeze on your credit, the credit monitoring services will not work. This is because they need to access your credit reports in order to monitor activity. However, don’t unfreeze it just to sign up for a service. If the third party cannot access your file because it’s frozen, then the credit freeze is doing what it is intended to do.
Something that often gets overlooked is monitoring the credit of children. In theory, children under 18 should not have a credit report, because they are not consumers. Per a 2012 study by the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group, one in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose information was accessed in an unauthorized manner. If you find a report for your child on file with Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, investigate it and the possibility of fraud using the child’s information.
Also remember that this applies to anyone who has used a social security number to get credit of any type or even to turn on utilities. This breach or any breach that includes stolen social security numbers is not limited to U.S. citizens. Anyone with a social security number can be a victim of identity theft.
© Copyright 2017 Stickley on Security
September 13, 2017