Equifax Breach: Short, sharp advice for consumers whose information was stolen

Some of the worst disputes filed through PeopleClaim.com‘s resolution system involve credit and financial problems.

Are you one of the 143 million consumers whose personal and financial data was stolen from Equifax?  If so, your name, birth date, Social Security number, address, driver’s license and – if you’re particularly unlucky – even your credit card number or dispute documentation, were likely stolen.

Equifax is offering affected consumers a year of free credit monitoring and free credit insurance.

Is that good enough?

No, says Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com. Credit thieves are more than happy to wait out a year’s worth of credit monitoring.

“The best way to protect one’s identity in this case is a credit freeze. A credit freeze can be obtained at the three major credit bureaus and it locks down your Social Security number on your credit report, preventing new line of credit from being opened.”

A credit freeze is slightly inconvenient – you’ll have to use a code or answer questions if you want to legitimately open a new account. But ask any identity theft victim if they wish they’d had it.

The big question is: Why can’t ALL consumers freeze their credit, ALL the time, with one central database?

Even though most of us are familiar with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, be aware of other consumer reporting agencies like Innovis.

  • If you’re an identity theft victim, you are usually entitled to a free credit freeze.
  • Anyone can freeze their credit individually with each of the three main bureaus – the cost ranges from free to $10, depending on your state. You may also be charged a fee to release your information.
  • A credit freeze automatically expires after seven years in four states: Kentucky, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
  • 29 states allow parents, legal guardians etc. to freeze a minor child’s information. In addition, you can freeze any minor child’s credit at Equifax.

But even if you freeze your credit right away, you’re not out of the woods.

“Also pay close attention to the activity on your credit card statements,” says Siciliano. “209,000 credit card numbers were stolen.”

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