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Two Actions You Can Take To Protect Yourself From The Equifax Data Breach.

Article By : Patrick Mansfield | U.S. Consumer Finance
how to protect against data breach
 With the recent Equifax data breach that resulted in compromised information for over 140 million Americans, there's a good chance that you will be affected in some way, which is why it's wise to take precautions that will protect you if your data was stolen or is in the future. There are two primary methods you can use to protect yourself from the Equifax data breach, including a credit security freeze and fraud alert, both of which will be discussed in further detail in the following. 

1. Credit Security Freeze

A security freeze stops credit report companies from releasing your credit report without first receiving your authorization to do so. While it's beneficial to put a freeze on your credit in the aftermath of the Equifax breach, it's also important that you understand that taking this action can delay or interfere with the approval of any application or request you've made for an apartment, a new mortgage, credit, a loan, or a wide array of additional services that oftentimes require the checking of credit. 

When you attempt to implement a security freeze on your credit, you will be given either a password or identification number that you will then use whenever you wish to release the freeze on your credit. This number can also be used to release your credit report for a single person or entity while still keeping the freeze in place. When you wish to authorize the release of your credit report after having placed the temporary security freeze, you will need to contact your reporting agency and provide them with a selection of information, such as:
  • The password or PIN number that you were provided with by the credit reporting agency
  • Some form of identification that proves who you are
  • A full statement of either wanting to completely remove the temporary security freeze or allowing access to your credit report to an individual or entity
If you wish to apply for new credit in the near future but also have a security freeze on your credit due to the Equifax breach, you will need to lift this freeze in order for this application to go through and credit to be extended to you. There is always a small delay when lifting a credit freeze, so try to do so at least several days in advance of when you apply for more credit.

2. Fraud Alert

A fraud alert is a type of alert that can be set up with each of the three major credit reporting companies in the U.S., including Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. By setting up an alert with these companies, any creditor that attempts to take a look at your credit report will need to verify your identity before extending the amount of credit you have or opening a new account. This helps to greatly reduce the chances that your identity is stolen, which is one of the possibilities after massive security breaches such as the Equifax data breach.

There are two main types of a fraud alert, including an initial fraud alert and an extended alert. An initial fraud alert lasts for 90 days before it's removed from your file, after which you will have the option of placing another initial fraud alert that lasts for the same period. One of the best aspects of these alerts is that you can obtain a free credit report from each credit reporting company when placing a fraud alert. 

As for an extended alert, you can place this when your identity has been stolen, and you've filed what is known as an identity theft report. An extended alert lasts for seven years, and you can receive two free credit reports from each credit reporting agency during the year in which you place the alert. By taking these two actions, you can protect yourself from the Equifax data breach and will have the tools necessary to do so in the future if ever a similar breach occurs.

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