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Equifax Data Breach

So that happened...
In September Equifax (a leading credit bureau) announced that there was a breach in security, where some extremely clever hackers got ahold of names, addresses, social security numbers and personal information of close to 143 million consumers. Not. Good.
We've heard quite a few concerns from members about their personal information getting in the hands of the wrong people, and rightfully so. We answered some of the most frequently asked questions below.
Am I at risk?
Should I freeze my credit?
Quite a few experts have pointed toward freezing your credit. We're not going to tell you if you should or shouldn't, but you should understand what it means to freeze your credit before you make a decision. We've added some quick points below, and you can find more detailed information here
 
Upside:
  • You stop your credit information from being given to lenders, so if anyone had access to your personal information, they still couldn't take out a loan or credit card in your name. 
  • You need to give permission for the credit bureau to unfreeze your credit so information can be given to open any sort of account. Again, stopping anyone other than you from getting into your business.
Downside:
  • You'll pay to freeze your credit at each credit bureau (somewhere between $3-$10 each), and you'll also pay to unfreeze your credit when and if you need access to it.
  • Since the Equifax situation happened TONS of people have frozen their credit. With that volume of requests, last we heard the credit bureaus were taking up to three days to unfreeze accounts. Meaning if you need something immediately, you may have to wait.
  • Freezing your credit won't protect you from everything. If the hackers already have your credit card number, for example, they might just use that instead of applying for a new card. 
How long until I know my information is safe?
  • Honestly...the hackers are likely to stay under the radar until the hype dies down. That means this could be a long-term game for them. No one (except maybe the hackers themselves) can predict when or how they'll use the information, so continue to watch for anything suspicious.
What else can I do?
  • Keep an eagle-eye on your statements. If you see anything out of the ordinary, trust your gut and dig a little deeper.
  • Open your junk mail. Those letters from credit card companies or random banks that you throw away without reading might actually be a letter about the, "great credit card rate on your new card" that you didn't actually want.
  • Place a free fraud alert on your credit report. This doesn't freeze your credit, but it does give the lender or creditor a heads up that you're concerned about identity theft. They can then take a few extra steps to make sure it's really you.
 
 
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