By: Laura Walton AFC®
He said “I’m not going to freeze my credit.” She said “I think I will.” That was the conversation at our house this week. What are you going to do?
Here’s my message from Equifax:
Equifax, one of the big three credit reporting bureaus, the very folks who track and report our credit, reported on September 7th they had been hacked between May and July of this year. 143 million U.S. consumers had their name, social security number, date of birth and driver’s license number stolen. 209,000 individuals had credit card numbers stolen. It’s estimated that 1 out of 2 Arizonans was affected.
So, what to do now? The “he said, she said” conversation was between me and Dave. I feel like erring on the side of caution. If I freeze my credit, theoretically no one but me can open credit in my name. However, this still doesn’t protect me against someone filing a false tax return in my name, getting a driver’s license in my name, accessing my financial accounts or using my credit card if I was one of the 209,000 who had their credit card numbers compromised.
Dave, on the other hand, agrees with many who view freezing your credit is a hassle and possible overkill. If you need credit of some sort, you have to unfreeze it (they promise to take no longer than three days to respond to your request), it costs money ($5 a pop in Arizona) and you absolutely cannot lose the PIN number they issue you. Plus, freezing credit is only a partial fix and may have unintended consequences. It may affect many transactions in our daily lives that we don’t necessarily connect with credit, i.e. insurance, travel, transactions as a business owner.
The important thing to remember is that freezing your credit doesn’t mean you can relax. You should still be vigilant about checking your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com (you can check your report once a year for free with each agency), create strong passwords and change them regularly, consider closing unused credit cards and even current credit cards just in case your numbers were among those stolen, file your taxes as early as possible (before the bad guys do), and consider using a free site like Credit Karma to monitor your credit. You can also sign up for the one year of free credit monitoring from Equifax by their deadline November 21st (puts me in mind of the fable about the fox protecting the hen house). Keep in mind, however, that credit monitoring doesn’t protect you from identify theft, it just alerts you after the fact. Also, check your homeowner’s policy – some include coverage for identity theft which may give you some small peace of mind.
It’s clearly a new world with biometrics in our futures. For today, we know that our identity is not secure and we must be proactive in protecting and monitoring it.