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What Frederick MD Consumers Should Know About the Equifax Data Breach
In my recent interview with Credit Counselor Blair Warner, of Upgrade My Credit, I learned some valuable things about the Equifax Data breach that took place over the summer of 2017. Here is the recorded interview: What You Need to Know About the Equifax Data Breach
Listen to the Podcast:
If the audio player doesn’t work on your device or browser, here is the downloadable mp3 file:
Four tips Blair mentions in the interview:
- The Opt-Out Prescreen website, where you can opt out of receiving credit offers.
- The only website where you can get a FREE credit report: Annual Credit Report .com
- Opt-Out Phone Number: Call 1-888-567-8688 To opt-out of giving permission to the credit bureau‘s to sell your information.
- Know the difference between a credit freeze and a credit lock. (Blair explains below)
If you find that you are having trouble because of the Equifax data breach, maybe you suspect your information has been compromised, or for any other reason, we highly recommend Blair Warner with Upgrade My Credit. He can be reached at 817-886-0302 ext. 3, or via email:
Since the interview:
Experian now offers a Credit Lock for $19.95 with a free 30-day trial. https://www.experian.com/lp/creditlock.html
If you prefer to watch the video of the interview:
Below is the transcript for those who prefer to read:
Karen: Today I’m talking with my friend Blair Warner, senior credit counselor with Upgrade My Credit. We’re going to talk about a very current issue, the Equifax credit breach.
Blair: I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. Before the mortgage crash and credit crisis in 2007, I was a mortgage loan officer. I transitioned into credit counseling at that time. I’m glad to be able to talk about this subject with you.
K: I actually I feel like I’m talking to you as a consumer today. Tell us about the Equifax Data breach, I know it’s been a couple of months and it might be on the back burner of the news, but I’m still interested in what, if anything, we should know and do about it.
B: That’s a good way to put it; the news cycle is that way…they focus on something for a week and then move on to the next thing. It’s a pretty big deal for the American people it’s a bigger deal than they’re making it. They’re trying to keep it hush-hush and what disturbs people the most, other than the fact that their data was breached, is that it was breached for over a month, or almost six weeks like six weeks before they made it public. This means that the hackers could have done anything with your data during that time. It’s long gone by now probably and it will never be recovered and they will probably never trace who did it. and it was just
People have hacked banks, they have hacked government programs, a lot organizations have had their data hacked. What makes this data breach different is that it is a broader problem due to the sheer number of people that were affected. Over one hundred and forty million American’s data was breached. If you think about it, there are three hundred and thirty or forty million people in the United States, and then a certain proportion of those are kids and a certain proportion of those are elderly…I’m just guessing but could conceivably be just about every active adult between 20 and 70 years old right now.
The reason that it affects everybody, even if you’ve never gotten credit, is because the credit bureaus are not just in the reporting business, they are in the data collecting business. Just like the government, they know your date of birth, they know your social security number, your driver’s license, your address and a lot more. The reason is that they sell your data to lenders and companies so that they can solicit your business. That’s why you get may get solicitations in the mail where you’re pre-approved for lines of credit. They know you’re pre-approved because they bought your information from one of the three credit bureaus.
Equifax claims that nothing was breached in a way that would hurt your credit, but they said that two months ago. As someone in the credit industry I’ve already seen people’s credit reports affected. People are finding things showing up on their credit report that don’t belong to them. Some may find changes that affect them positively, but other people can be affected negatively.
One of the things Equifax did was spend millions if not a billion dollars on their own in-house security. It took them 30 days to do that. After they finished, they said “we’ve done a test and now our system is now secure. Don’t worry people in America.” The problem is that the information is already out there.
K: It’s like the horses left the barn and the barn burned down, but guess what, we shut the barn doors!
B: I hate to say this but they think consumers are stupid, but that’s why we’re trying to get informed today. So after they said their system was secure, it won’t happen again, then they immediately decided to monetize and make money on this catastrophe. They built a new webpage and they’re offering a new product called “Credit Lock” for $19.95 a month. With this service nobody can access your credit or try to pull your credit report. The truth is, it’s too late.
The problem: One, they’re making money on the catastrophe. Two, they spent a massive amount of money, multi-million dollars on security tests to make sure everything’s secure… so if everything’s secure, why do they need you to spend $20 a month for security? It kind of feels fishy to me.
K: So what can you do?
B: Here’s the good news: you don’t have to buy Equifax’s credit lock. There is a way to get any what’s called a “credit freeze” on your credit report. It is essentially the same thing as a credit lock but, of course, Equifax couldn’t call it a credit freeze. But it’s the exact same thing. A credit freeze is free because it’s mandated in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Consumers should have the right to freeze their credit at their discretion and so it’s covered by law. They also mandated and said that consumers get one free credit report a year, so you can know if there are errors on your credit report.
I’ve been telling my clients about free credit freezes for a while and it’s a good thing to do now. You only really need to freeze Equifax, don’t worry about freezing TransUnion and Experian. The only caveat is, if someone is going to need to use credit in the next six months, like if they want to buy a house, then they don’t want to put a credit freeze in place.
I’m Tired of Solicitations!
There’s another step you can take. You can opt out of allowing credit companies to sell your information to businesses and creditors. Then you don’t get those pesky letters with credit offers. You can opt-out of letting all three reporting bureaus sell your information. The website to go to is: http://optoutprescreen.com
K: It’s a shame because we’re forced into this system. We have Big Brother taking all of our information, yet there’s very little education on it.
B: I think very few people understand how they can be proactive, like pulling your credit once a year and checking it even if you’re not buying a house or a car or anything. Even if you are not using credit you should be checking it once or twice a year just to make sure nobody’s pulling credit in your name and there are no errors. People don’t know which website to go to. It’s annual credit report.com. That’s the only place you can go to get a free credit report from each of the three bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
More Information on Credit Scores on my Blog.