Surely our readers have heard of the Equifax security breach??? The breach happened sometime between mid-May and July. Equifax discovered the hack on July 29 and can you believe–they didn’t inform the public until September 7! Disgusting!
How did this happen??
Equifax failed to promptly install a security fix to a flaw found in a web application tool used by many major corporations, experts said.
Hackers took advantage of that window, which lasted at least two months, to penetrate the company’s digital defenses. That allowed them to gain access to the personal data of up to 143 million people. The hackers seized names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even some driver’s license information.(USA Today, September 15, 2017)
This stolen information isn’t like a credit card–when your credit card is stolen, you call the company and the card is canceled. The information stolen from Equifax is perpetually valuable–you are not going to change your name, date of birth or social security number–that information will stay the same, now and five years from now. While you may not be impacted right at this moment, trouble could rear its ugly head in six months, a year, five years. This massive breach means you must be on guard, watching your credit cards, bank accounts and credit reports literally forever.
Equifax has offered a free credit monitoring service in an effort to pacify consumers. Equifax originally said by signing up you opt into arbitration and waive your right to take part in a class-action lawsuit for the credit monitoring service. But this waiver didn’t apply to the breach at large. It later dropped the restrictions for the free credit-monitoring service, saying customers who sign up because of the data breach are not subjected to the clause and would not be prevented from joining class-action suits. (Consumer Reports, September 12, 2017)
In 2007 the state of Montana passed legislation allowing consumers to freeze their credit. In August of 2007, the Cowboy and I froze our credit with all three credit reporting agencies–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
With the hacked information the thieves could possibly open a new credit card in your name, obtain a mortgage, buy a new car, etc. To limit your exposure, freeze your credit. It is then nearly impossible for anyone to obtain new credit in your name.
How do I freeze my credit:
You must contact each credit bureau for each person in your family.
Equifax: Call 1-800-349-9960 or visit Freeze.equifax.com/.
Experian: Call 1‑888‑397‑3742 or visit Experian.com/news/security-freeze.html.
TransUnion — Call 1-888-909-8872 or visit Transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze.
Innovis — Call 1-800-540-2505 or visit Innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze.
What does it cost:
“These figures reflect the combined costs to freeze your credit record at all three national credit bureaus. We show two costs to freeze due to the fact that Equifax, following its massive breach of customer data, has announced a waiver of its fees for the time being. The higher figure reflects the total costs if and when that waiver is lifted, which isn’t expected until at least early October.
You will not pay in any state to freeze your credit should you actually have suffered a credit fraud incident–that is, fraudulent credit was obtained in your name, and you reported that fact. A police report may be required to receive the waiver.” (valuepenguin.com)
|State||Freeze (during waiver)||Freeze (after waiver)||Temporary Unfreeze|
|District of Columbia||$20.00||$30.00||$0.00|
(Chart from valuepenguin.com)
So–in Montana, we pay $3 to each of the three major credit reporting bureaus to freeze our credit. And we pay $3 to each credit reporting bureau to unfreeze our credit.
How do you thaw your credit:
When you apply for insurance, a mortgage, a new account at say Verizon, a new credit card, etc. you will need to “thaw” your credit. You do not have to contact each of the three major credit bureaus, only the one the business uses to check client credit reports. In all the times we have had to thaw our credit for a temporary period, I have asked which credit agency is being used and the business has told me–allowing us to thaw/pay one credit agency, not all three.
I’ve also told each business needing to thaw my credit I would only thaw our credit for a limited time–24 to 48 hours. In my opinion, that gives any business plenty of time to check our credit and the time frame limits our exposure to dirtbag hackers. With that said, if you are applying for a mortgage–you just might need to “thaw” for a longer period of time???
After contacting each credit bureau in writing of our intent to freeze our credit and paying the fee we each received by mail a “pin number.” Now, when contacting the credit bureau of choice to thaw our credit, we provide that pin and the length of time we want the credit thawed. Remember we froze our credit in 2007–way before the internet became so useful–the “freezing” process may be more streamlined now.
So, that’s our take on the latest and potentially dangerous personal information hack–we do not find it difficult to “thaw” our credit–a little time consuming but well worth it in our opinion.