FOX43 Finds Out: You’re a victim in the Equifax data breach…now what?
YORK, Pa — If you have a credit card, loan or mortgage, it’s likely the credit reporting agency Equifax has a lot of your information.
Recently, Equifax disclosed the personal information of 143 million Americans may have been exposed in a recent hack, which means there’s a good chance you’re impacted.
The agency’s CEO, Rick Smith, says everything from social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers may have been accessed between mid-May and July.
“This is clearly a disappointing event and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I deeply regret this incident,” said the CEO.
Now, Equifax is trying to right the wrong.
There is also a call center to answer questions.
It’s also offering free credit file monitoring and identify theft protection – called Trusted ID Primier.
There was even drama with that.
Originally, if you signed up for Trusted ID it would mean you waived your right to arbitration or filing a class action suit.
Even so, financial experts like Sean Clark of York Independents are skeptical.
“A monitoring service will supposedly just let you know when a new line of credit is established so it’s kind of like notifying the horse has already left the barn. We can be a little more proactive about that.”
Clark’s advice is to put a freeze on your credit which restricts access to your credit report.
Meaning no one can open a credit card or get a loan in your name.
“This doesn’t negatively impact your credit. There’s no derogatory impact at all. It’s just a protection measure,” said Clark.
Freezing isn’t free though.
It could cost you to $5 to $10 a year per credit bureau and you’ll have to call each bureau to set up a freeze.
There is also another downside, freezing means you can’t open a new line of credit either, until you unfreeze it.
Clark says “Will it make it a little more difficult to go impulse buy that couch and get the line of credit for the store card for $1,000? Yeah it will. That’s definitely an impact. But then again, but if you can’t wait three days for them to unlock your credit so you can get a couch maybe you didn’t need that couch in the first place.”
Even Clark himself found out his personal information was impacted by the breach.
“I immediately called all of the credit bureaus, all 4 credit bureaus and got a freeze put on to my information.”
Yes, 4 credit bureaus. Clark says a lot of people have only heard of three.
“So there’s Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and one call Innovis.”
In Pennsylvania, most credit freezes last for 7 years. You may have to pay a fee every time you “un-freeze” or “thaw” or credit in that time period.
“This is a very long standing threat. So essentially as long as you own your identity, you are under threat now because that personal information has been breached.”
There are already dozens of class action lawsuits filed across the united states against Equifax and 36 US senators called on federal authorities to look into the breach.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shaprio says he is leading the national investigation into the credit reporting agency.
He twitted out a photo saying in part “Pennsylvania is taking the lead and investigating the Equifax data breach that impacted up to 143 million Americans.”
You can sign up for free credit monitoring service through Equifax right now, although not all financial experts think this is the best method.
You could sign up for fraud alerts.
This flags your credit report and requires creditors to take additional steps to verify that you are actually the one getting a new credit card or loan.
You can freeze your credit, Equifax has also said it will waive the fee to freeze your credit with until at least October 11th.
Here’s the only issue with a credit freeze.
Once you do that, you get a generated pin number.
That number allows you to freeze and unfreeze your account.
If a hacker finds out your pin, they can unfreeze your account and still open lines or credit or, if they wanted to, they could freeze your account and lock you out.
People have even been reporting that when pin number’s they’ve received are just the time stamp of when you activate the pin.
So that might be pretty easy to figure out.
Your best bet may be to call each credit bureau Experian (1-888-397-3742), Equifax (1-800-349-9660), TransUnion (1-888-909-8872), and Innovis (1-800 540-2505.
This article has been updated. In a previous version, the story stated you had to pay for a credit freeze each year in Pennsylvania.