Protect your family with a security freeze on your credit report and special deals on credit monitoring
It finally happened. I was one of the 143 million people in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. to have their personal information stolen in the Equifax hack.
The hackers stole names, social security numbers, birth dates, home addresses and even some drivers’ license information…everything they need to steal my identity, open new credit cards and loans in my name.
The Equifax website isn’t much help. They’re offering free credit protection but the fine print to the deal means you may be giving up your right to the developing lawsuit against the company.
Instead, I immediately signed up for credit monitoring and protection with LifeLock. I also put a security freeze on my credit reports to stop the hackers from using the information.
If you’re one of the 143 million others that got their information stolen, and it’s safe to say you probably are, here are the options I found while trying to protect my family.
Your Options after a Credit Information Hack Attack
The process to freeze your credit report is detailed below but it might not be the best solution. It costs $10 to freeze your report and there are three reporting agencies, so it will cost you $30 and it’s only a short-term solution.
A credit freeze is only going to protect you while your report is frozen. You’ll eventually need to unlock it and that will leave you exposed to identity theft. There are other options for lasting protection.
LifeLock has offered its premium credit monitoring protection on a risk-free 30-day trial for those affected by the Equifax hack. They’ve also discounted the price by 10% if you decide to keep the service. LifeLock monitors your credit across all three agencies and sends phone alerts immediately. Try LifeLock identity protection FREE for 30 Days
TransUnion, one of the three credit reporting agencies, is offering a $1 trial to get your credit report and score. It’s part of their 7-day trial for credit monitoring and an inexpensive way to make sure your credit hasn’t already been hacked. Click here to check your credit report and score on TransUnion.
You should also check your credit report on Experian, the third reporting agency besides TransUnion and Equifax. The company is offering free credit report with no credit card needed for signup and no obligation. Click for your free Experian credit report.
Remember, hackers can open fake accounts with your information and it may not go on all three credit reports. That’s why it’s important to check each of your three credit reports at least once a year and immediately after your information has been stolen.
Don’t forget, hacking doesn’t just happen to huge corporations. If a hacker gets access to your home computer, they can get access to all your financial accounts and passwords. I recently took advantage of this back-to-school offer for Norton virus protection and got 60% off to cover my home computer and smartphone.
How to Freeze Your Credit Reports to Protect Your Identity
I did freeze my three credit reports but only as quick protection against the Equifax hackers. A security freeze means no new accounts can be opened on your credit reports. It basically locks down your credit.
The problem is that it’s only a short-term solution. You’ll eventually have to unfreeze your reports to apply for loans or credit cards. Plus, the cost to freeze your credit reports adds up when you consider you have to do three separate freezes.
That’s why I’m using the credit freezes for the next few months but also signed up for the LifeLock identity protection and checked my credit reports on TransUnion and Experian.
Freezing your credit reports takes about five minutes so it’s not a tough process. Here are the links to the three credit reporting agencies to place a security freeze: Experian, TransUnion, Equifax. You’ll fill out a form with your name, social security number and address. All the info must match what’s on your credit report or you won’t be able to do it.
Once you want to unfreeze your reports, you’ll have to login to the website with a password. You may also need to mail a letter to get your credit reports unfrozen.
I guess it was only a matter of time before I got my personal information stolen. I’m glad I found out about it before it cost me my credit and thousands of dollars in fraud. Putting a freeze on your credit reports is one solution but only a short-term one so make sure you’re protected with longer-term options like credit monitoring and make sure you check your credit reports at least once a year for fraud.
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.