With 143 million consumers at risk after Equifax’s record setting security breach, millions are left with the question ‘what now?’ There are a few ways to protect yourself from identity theft, and monitoring your credit is one of the safest steps to financial peace of mind. Take a look at our informational guide on how to safeguard your credit report, and why it might be the best decision you make during the fallout from this record-setting breach of data.
What is credit monitoring?
Credit monitoring allows you to periodically review your credit report (from all three bureaus) for accuracy and changes that could indicate that your identity is stolen. If you see any unwarranted changes to your credit report—for example, opening up a new credit card or loan—you can then take the steps to recover your identity.
Monitoring your Credit: Manual vs. Automatic
Credit monitoring can be done manually or automatically through a paid service. While we don’t recommend the manual route (since it can be easy to forget to check it throughout the year), you can strategically view your free annual credit report and/or inexpensively purchase copies of your credit report every time you plan to apply for a new account.
Quick Tip: You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report (the score costs extra), and can request it by visiting: annualcreditreport.com.
If you don’t want to go the manual route, you can choose automated monitoring through a subscription-based service. Rather than deducing that your information was stolen yourself, a credit monitoring company will notify you if there has been any suspicious activity in your accounts and anytime a new account is opened in your name. In light of the recent data breach, Equifax is offering credit monitoring for free. If you’re wary of using Equifax to monitor any credit changes, we recommend using Identity Guard. Not only do they closely monitor your credit report and credit score, but they scan for credit applications in your name and have a dedicated identity theft recovery unit that’ll help you if you ever become a victim.
Freezing your credit is another option, but has its drawbacks
Another step you can make to keep your information safe after the Equifax data breach is freezing your credit. This enables you to restrict outside access to your credit report, and will stop a consumer reporting agency from releasing your credit report without your consent. This makes it difficult for an identity thief to open a new account in your name without having complete control of all of your contact information as well. While a credit freeze will not affect your credit score, and it will not stop you from opening a new account or applying for an apartment or rental home, you will be responsible for temporarily lifting a freeze so that the party you’re applying with can access your credit information. While freezing your credit is a viable way to protect your identity, you need to be aware that it can seem like a hassle to call the bureaus every time you need an employer or bank to access your information. Depending on the state you’re in, there may be costs and specified times to call in order to lift a freeze as well, but usually it is a small fee of under $10.
Quick Tip: If you need to temporarily lift the freeze, find out what credit bureau your employer, bank, or landlord is pulling from to avoid racking up unnecessary fees.
While we’ll get new information regarding the Equifax security breach, take the precautionary steps to protect your identity now. Whether you manually monitor your credit, or use a credit monitoring service, it’s important to know if your information is being tampered with to avoid the damage of identity theft later on. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive updates as new information is released regarding what impact this data breach could have on your personal information.
Were you or someone you know affected by Equifax’s data breach? Have you (or they) decided to freeze your credit? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe for more credit tips!
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