After Equifax: To Freeze or to Lock

The Equifax data breach means many consumers, including 3 million Tennesseans, have had their sensitive personal information compromised. This information can be used to open new credit accounts and can create financial headaches and chaos.

Now, people are asking: What should I do to protect myself? Our friends at Consumer Federation of America have some important guidance.

Here are some highlights of what they suggest:

In response to the Equifax data breach, many consumers are asking the credit reporting agencies to put a security freeze on their credit files. That’s certainly a good idea if your Social Security number and other personal information were exposed in this breach (you can go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on “Was I Impacted?” and put in your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security number to find out). It’s something that you might want to consider even if you weren’t affected, because as we’ve previously explained, a freeze can protect you from certain types of identity theft.

But you don’t have to enroll in this service or use the lock feature to protect your Equifax credit file. You can ask Equifax to freeze your file by:

  • Going to freeze.equifax.com;
  • Calling 1-800-685-1111 (New York residents should call 1-800-349-9960);
  • Or sending your request in writing to Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, Georgia 30348. If you mail a freeze request you will have to send proof of your identification.

And now through January 31, 2018 Equifax is waiving the small fee that it normally charges to set a freeze, lift it, or remove it.

So what are differences between locking and freezing your credit file? For one thing, if you lock your Equifax file through the free identity theft service, it will only stay locked for 12 months, when the service ends. On the other hand, if you put freezes on your files at Equifax and the other two major credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, they will last until you remove them. You can lift a freeze temporarily if you need to allow someone to check your credit file and then reset it, and you can permanently remove freezes whenever you choose.

 

Now is the time to take action to protect your personal financial information. We’re joining with consumer protection groups from around the country to advocate for policy solutions to protect consumers going forward — but, you should take the time now to protect your information.

For more on our consumer protection work, follow @TNCitizenAction


 

 

 

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