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Equifax Data Breach—What to Do to Protect Your Credit and Identity

On September 7th, 2017, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, revealed that hackers had gained access to their company data from May to July 2017. This data breach compromised the personally identifying information of 143 million American consumers, including names, social security numbers, addresses, dates of birth and driver license numbers. In addition, about 209,000 customer credit cards were compromised along with personal identification documents from 182,000 accounts in dispute.

This information could be used by criminals to open new credit accounts, file for tax refund anticipation loans, or otherwise impersonate individuals in a way that can be severely damaging to the victim’s finances and credit history.

Here are some steps you can take to  protect your personal information, identity and credit score.

1: Find out if you were affected – Equifax has created a site at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com where you can see if you were one of the millions of people whose data was compromised by the breach.

2. Sign up for credit monitoring – Equifax is offering free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring to all U.S. consumers for one year, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident. To find out if you were affected by the breach and to enroll for Equifax’s credit monitoring service go to the www.equifaxsecurity2017.com page where you will be asked to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

To sign up for free credit monitoring you will be asked to provide additional information to verify your identity including a valid email address and mobile number. Within a few days, you will receive an email with a link to activate Equifax’ TrustedID Premier credit monitoring service. When the email arrives, you will need to follow the link to verify your email address and complete your enrollment.   The enrollment period ends on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.

3. Check Your Credit Reports – You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the reporting agencies once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Check your credit reports and financial statements on a regular basis to look out for any suspicious activity such as payments you don’t recognize or accounts that you didn’t open. If you suspect someone used your identity to open credit card accounts or take out loans you must contact the company’s fraud department immediately.

4. Set up a Fraud Alert – A fraud alert makes it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When a fraud alert is set, companies are required to verify your identity by contacting you directly before opening a new credit account. To set a fraud alert, contact one of the credit card bureaus and ask for an initial fraud alert. You only need to contact one of the companies for the alert to be set, and it will last 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew it.

5: Put a Freeze on Your Credit – If you want to make it even harder for anyone pretending to be you to open a new line of credit in your name you can contact the credit bureaus and place a freeze on your credit file to restrict access to your credit report.

6: File Your Taxes Early! – Criminals have used stolen identity information to file taxes to receive a tax refund anticipation loan.  File your taxes early in order to file before an impostor tries to file with your info. Contact the IRS immediately if you suspect a fraudulent return has been filed with your info.

Helpful Contact Info for Credit Bureaus & FTC

Equifax: 1-888-766-0008 www.Equifax.com

Experian:  1-888-397-3742 http://www.experian.com

Transunion: 1-800-680-7289 www.transunion.com

Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center
1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
www.ftc.gov/idtheft

 

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It Pays to Check Your Credit Before Starting Your Home Search

You can check your credit online for free at http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com

It is a good idea to check your credit before meeting with a loan officer and before you start shopping for your dream home.

As part of the loan application process, the  bank or mortgage company will check  your credit worthiness before lending you money to buy that home. They want to see that you have a good record of paying your bills on time. A good credit history and a high credit score shows the lender that you are responsible and can be trusted to repay the debt.

You can check your credit by ordering a copy of your credit report and credit score so that you can see where you stand. By reviewing your credit report you can see if there are any errors such as debts or judgements that have already been paid off and not reported as paid as agreed. You will be able to see if there are accounts that have been closed, credit lines have been reduced or if there are any suspicious entries or enquiries on your report.

You can order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and Transunion, through AnnualCreditReport.com. If you want to check your credit score you will need to pay a small fee to order your credit score. You can purchase your credit score at the same time you order your credit report. Each credit reporting agency may calculate a different score for you, based on the data they have and the metrics they use, so you may want to order your credit score from each agency. You may be offered a discount for purchasing all three at the same time.

If there are incorrect items on your credit report you should contact the credit reporting agency where the error is reflected and ask them to investigate the item.

The strength of your credit history and credit score can make a difference in how much credit a lender will extend to you, what kind of financing options are available to you and what kind of interest rate is available to you.

Your credit report may show that your proportion of balances to total credit lines is high. In which case, you may want to take action to pay down those outstanding balances and limit new borrowing to improve those ratios. Alternatively, you may not have enough of an established credit history. Lenders want to see a good credit history that shows that you can responsibly manage credit.

If you can take the time to check your credit report for accuracy, report any errors to the credit reporting agencies to be investigated and take steps to improving your credit score, those steps may well save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.