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Equifax data breach - Off Topic

Posted by Chris in Tampa on 9/21/2017, 2:58 am
Message modified by board administrator on 9/21/2017, 6:17 am

I post this in case anyone is interested, but I don't want to distract from the tropics. It simply impacts so many people and I've been looking into this and thought others might be as confused as I have been. (and still am confused to some extent)



I'm sure most of you are aware that the personal information of 143 million Americans were compromised in the Equifax data breach. (stories on Google News)

For those that are interested, I just wanted to post some information about freezing or locking your credit report.

I haven't locked or frozen anything yet, so I don't know how it all works for sure yet. It's confusing.

There are three credit reporting companies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian

If you want to freeze or lock your credit report, you must do it with each separate credit reporting company. It will cost some money, unless you have been a victim of identity theft. That means someone actually tries to do something with your information and you file a police report for example. Being a part of the breach doesn't count.

First though, about fraud alerts.

You can initiate a free fraud alert for 90 days:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert

"An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit, so it may try to contact you. The initial alert stays on your report for at least 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days."

If you notify one of the three credit reporting companies, they have to tell the other two for a fraud alert.

But to extend it for 7 years you need to be a victim of identity theft:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0279-extended-fraud-alerts-and-credit-freezes

I don't know how many times you can renew it for 90 days, but it doesn't lock or freeze anything. I guess it's good if you need to do something quick before you do more.

Now to locking and freezing...

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Honestly, I'm still confused about the difference.

Locking and unlocking seem to be something you can do easily online by logging into your account at a credit reporting company. Freezing and unfreezing costs money, requires a pin to undo and should take longer to do.

TransUnion describes the difference like this:
https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze2

"Locking
Locking your account puts you in control with no waiting and no PIN to remember and no fee for this service.  Enroll in TrueIdentity free - no credit card required - and you'll have access to your TransUnion credit report, the ability to lock and unlock your credit whenever you want and, free monitoring alerts.

Freezing
Freezing your credit will prevent lenders and others including (depending on your state's law) landlords, employers and others from accessing your TransUnion credit report in response to a new credit application. You will need to take additional steps to unlock your credit when you wish to apply for any type of credit.  Freezing your credit frequently involves a fee, as does unfreezing your credit."


Equifax describes the difference like this:
https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/frequently-asked-questions/

"In this situation, am I better off placing a fraud alert, requesting a security freeze, or using the file lock feature in the TrustedID Premier product?

Fraud Alert: A fraud alert is a notification you may request that a nationwide consumer reporting agency place on your credit report that warns creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft. Think of a fraud alert as a "red flag" for those third parties that may consider extending you credit. Fraud alerts are free, and will still allow third parties access to your credit reports - however, if there is a fraud alert on your credit report, third parties will be encouraged to take certain steps to verify your identity before extending you credit. Once you place a fraud alert with one nationwide consumer reporting agency, it will be automatically placed with the other two nationwide consumer reporting agencies.

Security Freeze: A security freeze prevents new creditors from accessing your credit report unless you lift or remove the freeze, either temporarily or permanently. The nationwide consumer reporting agencies may charge consumers for placing or removing freezes depending on state law. You will need to contact each nationwide consumer reporting agency to place or remove a security freeze.

File Lock: An Equifax credit file lock is similar to a security freeze and allows you to lock access to your Equifax credit report. Lenders cannot access your Equifax credit file to open new accounts unless you unlock your file. However, when you lock your Equifax credit file, it does not lock your credit file at the other two nationwide consumer reporting agencies. The lock feature is available within the complimentary TrustedID Premier product Equifax is making available to U.S. consumers."


Further information about Equifax Credit Report Lock:
https://www.equifax.com/personal/products/credit/monitoring-and-reports

"Locking your credit file with Equifax Credit Report Control will prevent access to your Equifax credit file by certain third parties, such as credit grantors or other companies and agencies. Credit Report Control will not prevent access to your credit file at any other credit reporting agency, and will not prevent access to your Equifax credit file by companies like Equifax Global Consumer Solutions which provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file; Federal, state and local government agencies; companies reviewing your application for employment; companies that have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those whom you owe; for fraud detection and prevention purposes; and companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you. To opt out of such pre-approved offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com."


Next, the costs.



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The simple version of costs...

I don't think freezing costs you anything if you are a victim of identity theft.

Generally, freezing and unfreezing cost $10 or less for each credit reporting company. $10 when you freeze and $10 when you unfreeze. But each state has different rules. (as well as the particular company) So if you needed to keep freezing and unfreezing, costs would add up. And of course this is per person.


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Equifax:

Locking:
TrustedID Premier service is free for 1 year if you activate your account by November 21st, 2017. This definitely applies to people affected by the breach, but may apply to everyone else too. I don't know for certain. More about this signing up for this service later in this post. I assume your credit report will be unlocked after 1 year and then you will either need to choose to pay (will not automatically charge you, they don't take your credit card information when you sign up) or freeze your credit report. I don't know how much it is normally, but Equifax Complete Premier Plan is $19.95 per month or Equifax Complete Family Plan is $29.95 per month. (From: https://www.equifax.com/personal/products/credit/monitoring-and-reports) I don't know what that is compared to the current free product. So long term, freezing is likely the better option after a year. More in their FAQ: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/frequently-asked-questions/


Freezing:
Costs money


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TransUnion:

Locking:
TrueIdentity service is free (they don't take your credit card information when you signup)
About: https://www.transunion.com/product/trueidentity-free-identity-protection

Freezing:
Likely to cost money (permanently unfreezing is free)


-------------------


Experian:

Locking:
Experian CreditWorks service with Experian CreditLock costs $24.99 per month (kind of like Equifax locking will be after 1 year, but this is expensive immediately)
About: http://www.experian.com/consumer-products/creditlock.html

Freezing:
Costs money


-------------------


Again, to be more protected, you have to do something at each. I don't know how locking works. Does it effectively work the same way in blocking access to companies trying to access your credit report? Does it work the same way at each credit reporting company?

If it works the same in that regard, the log in details at each credit reporting company would be important. If someone had those, they could unlock your credit report. (Always have a different password for every account you have and make sure you make them complex, especially for important sites.)

Now to more in depth costs, which vary by state for freezing and unfreezing. Since I'm in Florida, I'll list that. (where 65 and up have special pricing)



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Freezing/unfreezing fees...

Again, I don't think any have a fee if you are an identity theft victim and provide the evidence they say is required, which might be state specific.

And 65 years old or older is only in some states, find your state at the links below for specific fees.

The one time fee for taking an action vary from free, $3, $5, $6, $7.50 or $10 depending on the state, with some based on your age.


-------------------


Equifax:
https://help.equifax.com/s/article/ka137000000DSDyAAO/What-are-the-security-freeze-fees-in-my-state
View PDF file linked from that page.

Florida (Younger than 65):

Security Freeze Placement: $10
Date Range Lift: $10
Specific Party Lift: Not Available
Permanent Removal: $10

Florida (65 years old or older):

Security Freeze Placement: Free
Date Range Lift: $10
Specific Party Lift: Not Available
Permanent Removal: Free


-------------------


TransUnion:

https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/credit-freeze-information-by-state

"Lift" is lift for a specific party or lift for a period of time, I think depending on what a state allows.

"When a state allows for different amounts to be charged for a lift for a specific party versus a lift for a period of time, TransUnion will charge the lesser of these amounts for either type of lift."

Florida (Younger than 65):

Add Freeze: $10
Lift Freeze: $10
Remove Freeze: Free in every state

Florida (65 years old or older):

Add Freeze: Free
Lift Freeze: $10
Remove Freeze: Free in every state


-------------------


Experian (might save $5 by using Ebates, see later in post):
https://www.experian.com/news/security-freeze.html
More: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Florida (Younger than 65):

Place a security freeze: $10
Temporarily remove security freeze: $10
Permanently remove security freeze: $10

Florida (65 years old or older):

Place a security freeze: Free
Temporarily remove security freeze: $10
Permanently remove security freeze: $10 (Unlike Equifax, there is no mention of waving the fee)



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For locking and unlocking at Equifax they note it might take some time, rather than be immediate.

"Requests to lock and unlock your Equifax credit file will be fulfilled by Equifax within 24 to 48 hours, so please take that into account when you are considering applying for new credit."

From their FAQ page.



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Regarding signing up for Equifax's TrustedID Premier service for 1 year by November 21st, 2017...

If you are involved in the Equifax breach, and possibly if you are not, I don't know, you can sign up for free to lock your credit report and they have other features you get.

Equifax:
https://www.equifax.com/
Then from there you go to:
https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/
Then from there you go to:
https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html
"To enroll in complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring"

There has been some confusion over the site you go to so I wanted to make it clear.

You enter your last name and last 6 digits of your social security number to see if you are impacted. 143 million Americans are, so chances are you are. You sign up and you should get an email to activate it. It might take some time, they are busy. I had a lot of trouble accessing the site a few days ago. I forget if you create a password before or after the activation email. Eventually you will log in to your account and at that time you have 5 minutes to answer questions about your credit report to verify yourself. When I tried the page timed out and I was locked out. I had to then call them to verify myself. (This number worked quick as it is not listed in many places: 1-877-394-7074) Over the phone they asked me questions where I think I had to answer 2 out of 5. They had me log in while I talked with them on the phone and I was then able to log in. Because of the initial issues, it took until the next day before I could access the account fully. I let my dad verify his account on the phone too rather than even bother with trying to deal with the slow loading pages. When you are in your account, there's a button to lock your credit, but I haven't done that yet.



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I noticed one article:
http://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/credit/i-tried-to-freeze-my-credit-heres-what-happened/

That mentioned being able to use Ebates to get $5 back from Experian. I haven't tried it and don't know for sure if it applies, but possibly worth checking out.

Edit:
Forgot to include link to Ebates:
https://www.ebates.com/experian.com



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If you want to lock...



Equifax:
1 year free (no credit card required): https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html
$19.95 monthly plan: https://www.equifax.com/personal/products/credit/monitoring-and-reports

TransUnion:
Free (no credit card required): https://www.transunion.com/product/trueidentity-free-identity-protection

Experian:
$24.99 monthly plan: http://www.experian.com/consumer-products/creditlock.html



If you want to freeze...



Equifax:
https://www.freeze.equifax.com/

TransUnion:
https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp

Experian:
https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html



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When freezing, pay attention to what you need to give them. Things may vary.

I don't know how long it takes to freeze/unfreeze it. It could take a few days to unfreeze. Then you can do what you need to and wait for the credit report to be accessed by who needs it. Then it might take a few days to freeze it back when you did it again with all three. You'll have to look at the pros and cons. If you are getting a new job, insurance, credit card or bank account for example, you can't have it frozen if your credit history needs to be looked at. I don't know if locking works the same way yet.

You can still have a bank account and credit card of course. Your current financial relationships are not likely to be impacted unless you tried to make a change.

Given the number of people affected by Equifax data breach, the three credit reporting companies have been extra busy. In some various news articles I've looked at, locking or freezing your credit may not go smoothly, especially if you need to call someone on the phone.



In case you are wondering "Does a credit freeze affect my credit score?":
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs#score

"No. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score.

A credit freeze also does not:

- prevent you from getting your free annual credit report
- keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you're doing any of these, you'll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it's best to check with the credit reporting company in advance.
- prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions."



They also have on that page:

"How do I lift a freeze?
In a few states, credit freezes expire after seven years. In the vast majority of states, a freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.

If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit reporting company the business will contact for your file, you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular company."




I'm not sure "lifting the freeze only at that particular company" is an option in some states. I have not researched that. I did see that Experian has a link here:
https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

For "Grant a creditor one-time access to my credit file":
https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/singleusepin

"Request a single-use PIN to provide to a creditor to access your credit file. A single-use PIN may be used by only one creditor. A new single-use PIN must be requested for each additional creditor to access your credit report. Only one single-use PIN may be active at a time."

I assume that is $10. Of course when you need to unfreeze or unlock your credit report I do not know if you have to do it at all three. Can you ask the company that needs access to your credit report what credit reporting company they need to contact?



Someone I know uses LifeLock and I was researching how the breach might impact them and found this article about the pros and cons of freezing your credit:
https://www.lifelock.com/education/equifax-data-breach-need-credit-freeze/

"Here are some of the disadvantages associated with a credit freeze.

- No protection for existing accounts - Data thieves may have enough of your personal information to penetrate your existing accounts-your credit cards, your bank account. They could charge purchases or withdraw money. You will still need to monitor your accounts for fraudulent transactions.

- No immediate access for legitimate reasons - A lot of people, companies and institutions need to see your credit report for legitimate reasons. These could include a potential employer, when you apply for a job; a landlord, when you want to rent an apartment; a cellphone service provider, when you want to switch plans. What if you want to buy insurance or sign up for a new credit card? In all of these cases, you'll have to plan ahead to provide access to your credit report.

- Added costs in time and money - It takes effort to lift a credit freeze when you need to provide access to your credit report and if you don't fit into a certain category under your state's law, you have to pay a fee.

- No defense against other types of identity theft - A credit freeze helps to address one financial challenge-fraudulent new accounts-but the information stolen in the Equifax breach raises other risks. If identity thieves have your Social Security number and other personal data, that can lead to medical identity theft, where a thief could obtain medical care or prescription drugs in your name. Employment identity theft is another risk-someone may use your Social Security number to land a job. Then there's tax-related identity theft. A thief might use your Social Security number to get a fraudulent tax return."


Of course they are a little biased and what you to sign up for LifeLock, but some of the points made are good.



I'll figure out more I guess when I try to lock and/or freeze things. I guess I'll likely lock my credit report at Equifax for a year and TransUnion until I need it unlocked. I guess I'll pay Experian $10 to freeze my report there and in a year will need to pay Equifax $10 to freeze it there too. (unless by then Congress, or even individual states, act and waive the fees)

1072



In this thread:

Equifax data breach - Off Topic - Chris in Tampa, 9/21/2017, 2:58 am

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