After the Equifax data breach potentially exposed 143 million Americans' personal information - including Social Security numbers - money expert Clark Howard has said a credit freeze is the #1 way to protect your identity.
People who are anxious about their credit information being compromised and potential identity theft have been urged to contact Equifax as well as rival rating agencies TransUnion and Experian to get their credit frozen, or at the very least, monitored.
As such, they are more likely to offer you fraud alerts and other credit monitoring products.
Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more hard for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
They said that now is the time to be looking at your bank statements and credit reports more often.
"We are listening to issues consumers have experienced and their suggestions", the company said on a website it created to post updates on the hack and to detail how it is addressing the issue.
These breaches are some of the worst because the information stolen (names, Social Security numbers, addresses) can be used by an imposter to open accounts in your name, steal your tax refund or your Social Security check.
Equifax says "only a limited number of Canadians may have been affected".
The data breach has the potential to be a nightmare for consumers, not just in the USA but also places like Canada and the United Kingdom where Equifax does business as well. This means that a lender must contact you to verify your identity before it issues credit in your name.
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The costs to freeze and lift the freeze on your credit vary based on where you live and for each credit reporting agency, but commonly range from $2 to $10 per agency. So you can either go to each of the three credit bureaus individually, or you can go to a aggregator.
"Ask your credit card issuer to give you a new credit card number".
To prove your claim that Equifax caused you harm-the basis for your lawsuit-you'd need proof that the information leaked from Equifax actually resulted in harm against you. This will alert law enforcement to be extra careful identifying a person they pull over, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
The three credit bureaus websites returned error messages at various times Wednesday for consumers seeking credit freezes.
"Regardless of whether you're affected or not, I recommend freezing your credit report".
In response, the financial institutions reporting to Equifax, and the individuals about whom it tracks and rates will be filing lawsuits across the country.
The credit freeze, however, will not protect you from potentially even more nefarious end users of this treasure trove of information on almost half of all Americans. It failed in that duty when, from mid-May through July 2017, criminals exploited vulnerabilities in its website to access the personal information of millions of people.
A spokeswoman for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which is the central agency in Canada, that collects identification theft complaints and other related matters, has not received any complaints in connection with the Equifax hack. If it does then they charge huge amounts.