Today’s guest blogger is Kim Carpentier, the owner of Valley Credit Builders. You have undoubtedly heard the news of the Equifax data breach. Kim shares some of the background and nuances of the credit industry and the immediate steps you need to take to ensure your credit is best protected for years to come.
Unfortunately, the Equifax data breach is something that will affect the American credit system for years to come. Whether you have been comprised or not, chances are that the original figure of 143 million affected consumers is likely to grow as the investigation moves forward.
Here are four easy steps that you can take to protect yourself:
1. Freeze or lock your credit file. This, I believe, is going to be the new normal and I consider this mandatory. You can add and remove a credit freeze very easily through the credit bureaus’ websites. A security freeze will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit file, without your permission. This will stop fraudsters from creating additional credit accounts, on your credit, for their use. There is a charge for these freezes which varies based on state residency. In Massachusetts, the charge is $5 per freeze and unfreeze. I would suggest, that due to the extent of this breach, future consideration may end up reducing – if not eliminating – this charge. Your credit report will only be accessible by unfreezing the account. Do not allow the nominal charge to prevent you from freezing your accounts. Keep in mind that if your credit file or identity is compromised, it will end up costing you much, much more.
Information on how to initiate a security freeze for the three major credit bureaus may be found here:
The Chicago Tribune also has a helpful article on freezing your credit file, which may be found here: “Here's how to freeze your credit to protect your identity.”
An important note: calling the credit bureaus will only end up in frustration. I strongly suggest using the links above. Also, DO NOT FORGET YOUR PIN NUMBER. This can be really frustrating in the future.
2. Monitor your credit reports. Credit monitoring services typically provide you with an updated credit report every 30 days. It is critical that you review these reports carefully and update them as necessary. In addition, please ensure that whatever monitoring service you use monitors the “dark” web.
3. Monitor your financial accounts. Visit your online bank and financial accounts, and set up any alert features they may have, if you have not already done so. This could help save some time and keep you notified of any unusual events when they occur.
4. Stay alert. Pay attention to and retain any mail you receive that is unfamiliar to you, such as notices from the IRS regarding your taxes or any bills from unknown lenders.
The threat of identity theft posed by the Equifax breach is likely to affect all of us for years to come. Please don’t hesitate…protect yourself!
Kim Carpentier is the owner of Valley Credit Builders. Since 2010, he has assisted hundreds of individuals, helping them to “balance the score” against the unfair practices of the three major credit bureaus. It is estimated that over 25% of all credit reports have significant errors. These reporting errors negatively impact the individual’s credit score, thereby impacting their ability to qualify for proper financing, potentially costing them thousands of dollars in extra interest charges.
He understands the importance of the recent Equifax data breach, one of the 3 major credit bureaus, and how it will affect every aspect of the American credit system, for years to come. Not only will this affect the individual’s world of credit but will negatively impact many other sectors of the credit world such as; the banking industry, auto industry, credit card industry and small businesses.