How to check, monitor, and secure your credit report

The recent Equifax hack has raised awareness about the need to secure your credit report and personal financial information.  Below are steps to take to determine if you have been affected and what you can do to check, monitor, and secure your credit reports.

How does the Equifax hack impact me?
Your credit report contains detailed information (social security number, past addresses, loans, credit cards, etc.) and payment history for loans and credit cards.  This information can be used to impersonate you and open up a new credit card account in your name without your knowledge. You could end up with a past due balance for a credit card that you didn’t even know about.

How can I find out if my personal information has been compromised?
Go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/enroll/ and see if your personal information has been compromised. If so, you will be able to enroll in Equifax TrustedID premier credit monitoring and ID theft protection service for free up to one year.  You can also sign up for the free service even if you were not impacted. Signing up for the service will not limit your ability to participate in a class-action lawsuit in the future.

How can I check my credit report?
Go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com and request your free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You are allowed a free credit report once per year.  You can stagger the reports to get more frequent reviews.  Review the report carefully to determine if there is any unauthorized credit or payment information.  You can also see if any unauthorized credit inquiries have been made.

How can I monitor my credit report and score?
Equifax and TransUnion offer a credit monitoring and ID Theft protection service.  CreditKarma and CreditSesame also offer free credit score and credit monitoring services.

How can I completely lock down my credit record?
You can freeze your credit record at each of the three credit bureaus.  A credit freeze permanently locks your credit file and requires a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) to gain access to your credit record.  Lenders are unable to access your credit report unless you remove the freeze.  Identity thieves are unable to get new credit in your name, since banks will not issue a new credit card without reviewing your credit report.

Each bureau will charge you a one-time $10 fee.  The fee is waived if you have already been a victim of identity theft.  A credit freeze is a good idea if you have all of the credit you need.  Couples should freeze the credit record of each spouse separately. Consider freezing your children’s records as well.

Equifax
https://www.freeze.equifax.com/ or call (888) 766-0008

Experian
https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html or call (888) 397-3742

TransUnion
https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze2 or call (888) 809-8872

TransUnion offers a free TrueIdentity service that allows you lock your credit record.  You can either sign up for TrueIdentity or place a freeze.

How can I lift a credit freeze?
Be sure to store the website, phone number, and PIN for each bureau in your password manager vault.  You will need the PIN to unfreeze your credit record, and you will have to pay a fee.  If you need to apply for credit, you will need your PIN to remove the freeze temporarily.