By Jon L. Ten Haagen, CFP ®
Equifax’s response to the data breach is to offer consumers one free year of credit file monitoring services through TrustedID Premier. This includes monitoring reports generated by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports with a credit freeze: identity theft insurance; and Social Security number monitoring.
Consumers who choose to enroll in this service will need to provide a valid email address and additional information to verify their identity. A few days after enrolling, consumers will receive an email with a link to activate TrustedID Premier. The enrollment period ends Nov. 21. After one free year is up, consumers will not be automatically charged or enrolled in further monitoring; they will need to sign up again if they choose to re-enroll, although some initial reports stated that consumers would be automatically re-enrolled after the first year.
What other steps can I take?
It is always a good idea to monitor your own personal information and be on the lookout for identity theft. Here are additional steps you can take.
- Fraud Alerts: Your first step should be to establish fraud alerts with the three major credit reporting agencies. This will alert you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name. You can also set up fraud alerts for your credit and debit cards.
- Credit freezes: A credit freeze will lock your credit files so only companies you already do business with will have access to them. This means that if a thief shows up at a faraway bank and tries to apply for credit in your name using your address and Social Security number, the bank won’t be able to access your credit report. However, a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making changes to you existing accounts.
- Initially, consumers who tried to set up credit freezes with Equifax discovered they had to pay for it, but after a public thrashing Equifax announced that it would waive all fees
- For the next 30 days, starting from Sept. 12, for consumers who want to freeze their Equifax credit files.
- Before freezing your credit reports, though, it’s wise to check them first. Also, keep in mind that if you want to apply for credit with a new financial institution in the future, or you are opening a new bank account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance, you will need to unlock or ‘thaw’ the credit freeze.
- Credit reports: You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit agencies once every 12 months by requesting the reports at Annualcreditreport.com or calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228. Because the Equifax breach could have long-term consequences, it’s a good idea to start checking your report as a part of your regular financial routine for the next few years. I would do this annually going forward.
- Bank and credit card statements: Review your financial statements regularly and look for any transactions that seems amiss. Take advantage of any alert features so that you are notified when suspicious activity is detected. Your vigilance is a tool in fighting identity theft.
Editor’s note: This article is credited for content to Broadridge and is the second part of a two-part series.