The Equifax hack just got worse...
Last September, Equifax admitted it had been hacked back in May. About 145 million Americans had their information exposed.
That's nearly every American with credit history.
Equifax is one of the three main credit bureaus in the U.S. The other two are Experian and TransUnion.
Back in September, Equifax told consumers the hack exposed information like Social Security numbers, addresses, and birth dates... the key information someone would need to steal your identity.
Right now, Equifax is under several investigations because of the breach and we're learning even more about the information stolen.
Equifax recently disclosed to the Senate Banking Committee that the company found hackers accessed more than initially thought... including tax-identification numbers, e-mail addresses, credit-card expiration dates, and more.
It's more important than ever to monitor your credit...
Each of the credit bureaus offer a free report once a year. Your credit report will list all open lines of credit and debts – all credit cards, mortgages, and loans should be on there.
That's how you can catch identity theft – you'll see lines of credit or inquiries you didn't authorize. Checking your credit report is an essential way to protect yourself.
You can request all three reports at once or spread them out, depending on what works for you. Get all three at once if you want a full picture of your current credit history, or stagger them every few months for regular monitoring.
Keep in mind that if you have a big purchase coming up like a house or a car, you'll want to get all three to have the full picture of what your credit looks like. That will help with negotiating leases and mortgages.
It's important to get all three because the credit bureaus don't all report the same data. That's right – you might find accounts missing on one of those reports that appear on another. One of our researchers found that her bank only reports to two of the credit bureaus.
Equifax recently launched a new service to help protect your credit called Lock & Alert. It's a simple – and free – way to lock and unlock your Equifax credit report. The service sends you an alert each time your credit report is locked or unlocked... so you'll know if someone if trying to access your information. TransUnion offers a similar free service called TrueIdentity.
And if you're really worried, you can put a freeze on your credit. Law regulates credit freezes, not the whims of the credit bureaus like locking services do. There are also tougher security blocks to freezing and unfreezing your credit.
To put a "security freeze" on your credit, you'll need to call each credit bureau, tell them to freeze your credit, and pay a fee (up to $10 depending on where you live). Currently, you can freeze your credit with Equifax for free through June 30.
Just remember that if you need to apply for a loan or line of credit, rent an apartment, or apply for a job, you'll need to call each bureau to temporarily lift the freeze on your credit. But don't forget you'll have to make sure to freeze your credit again after.
What We're Reading...
- In case you missed it: Our take on the breach just after it went public.
- Something different: The dark origins of Valentine's Day.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
February 14, 2018