Equifax Hacked: What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

As many of you probably already know, one of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, was hit by a massive hack several days ago. Exposing millions of American’s addresses, driver’s licenses, social security numbers, dates of birth, and other sensitive personal information that could be used to steal an identity.

Because of the size and scope of this attack, it is estimated that every one in three Americans has been affected. To see if your personal information may have been compromised, you may use Equifax’s free tool here. You will be required to give only your last name and the last six of your social security number.

If after testing you find that your information may have been compromised, we strongly urge you to place a security freeze on your credit. This can be done regardless of whether or not your identity has been stolen yet. If you are aware that your identity has been stolen and your information is being used by an identity thief, contact the police immediately before placing the security freeze in effect.

Placing a Security Freeze Request

In order to place a security freeze on your credit account you will have to send three pieces of certified mail to each of the credit reporting agencies. Each freeze will cost you a $3.00 fee. If you believe your identity has already been stolen you will not have to pay the fee, instead you will submit a copy of the official police report you filed and your security freeze will be free.

When mailing your security freeze request, address one to each of the three credit reporting agencies listed below:

  • Equifax Security Freeze
    PO Box 105788
    Atlanta, GA 30348
  • Experian Security Freeze
    PO Box 9554
    Allen, TX 75013
  • Transunion
    PO Box 2000
    Chester, PA 19022

The letter you send to each of the credit agencies should look something like this:

(Date)

(Address of the credit reporting agency)

Dear (credit bureau)

My name is:

My former name was (if applies):

My current address is:

My address has changed in the past five years. My former address was (if applies):

My Social Security number is:

My date of birth is:

I have enclosed photocopies of a government issued identity card AND proof of residence such as a utility bill or phone bill.

(Include one of the three following paragraphs)

I am an identity theft victim and a copy of my official police report documenting the identity theft is enclosed.

OR

I am a parent of the minor child listed above and have included a copy of their birth certificate and social security card or I am a guardian of the minor child and have included copies of the court documentation.

OR

I have enclosed the $3.00 fee to place a security freeze on my credit account.

Respectfully yours,
(Your name)

What Happens Next?

Once your security freeze request letters have been received by the credit bureaus, they will place a freeze on your credit within three business days. The bureaus will then have five days from receiving the letter to send confirmation and provide you with a PIN number. Keep this PIN on hand because it will cost you $5.00 to have another issued if you lose it.

Your PIN will be used to open new credit (if you need to) while your credit is frozen. To do this, be sure to plan ahead as it can take up to three business days to temporarily lift your credit freeze. Once you’ve decided to temporarily lift the freeze on your credit you will need to:

  • Contact the credit reporting agencies outlined above either by telephone, internet, or fax.
  • Provide the proper identification such as your PIN number, SS#, name, and address.
  • Specify the time period you would like your credit freeze to be lifted for such as September 1st to September 5th.

Once you’ve requested a temporary lift in your credit freeze, the credit agencies have 15 minutes from the receipt of your notice to lift the freeze so long as the request is received between 6:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

While your credit is frozen, odds are that even an identify thief in possession of your social security number and your name won’t be able to obtain credit in your name.

If, at any time, you decide to permanently lift the freeze on your credit account you can do so by sending a request to each of the credit bureaus to end the freeze on your account.

Things to Remember

  • Whenever you feel your information has been put at risk, freeze your credit. This greatly reduces the risk of long term damage to your credit history and will stop some identity thieves in their tracks.
  • When requesting a freeze, be sure to send requests to all three of the credit reporting agencies. If you leave any of them open, you will not be fully protected. These requests must be mailed-certified.
  • If you need more information or have concerns not addressed here, feel free to contact our office at 402-826-2528.