Freezing credit and signing up for free credit monitoring are among strategies a University of Wyoming Extension specialist recommends in response to the massive hack of the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax.
Information for about 145 million people was compromised, potentially exposing names, addresses, birthdates and Social Security numbers.
Equifax has taken a few steps to help people protect their identities, said personal financial management specialist Cole Ehmke. All Americans can sign up for free credit monitoring at www.equifax.com at the Equifax Cybersecurity Incident link. The monitoring is effective for all three credit bureaus, including Experian and TransUnion. Enrollment ends Nov. 21.
Equifax has also promised to waive the fee to freeze credit reports through the end of January.
A credit freeze limits access to a credit report, limiting potential creditors from accessing credit files, so the creditor is less likely to issue credit, said Ehmke.
“The end result is that identity thieves are less likely to open an account in your name,” he said.
There is a charge each time a credit report is frozen and also when the freeze is lifted. The cost in Wyoming is $10. Equifax has waived this fee until the end of January, said Ehmke.
He recommended freezing credit at all three agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – as the best identity theft protection.
“You’d need to do it with each of the main credit reporting agencies for both yourself and for a spouse,” said Ehmke. “Remember that you’ll have to “unfreeze” your report temporarily if you want to open a new line of credit yourself.”
He said Equifax has announced a new service called a credit lock, which they say will launch by Jan. 31.
“Offering a credit lock is a more significant offer than Equifax’s previous ones of one free year of credit monitoring or its promise to waive the fee to freeze your credit through the end of January, since it is free for life, but it offers slightly less than a credit freeze,” Ehmke said.