By Rachel Morey


5 Min. To Read

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Equifax announced a massive data breach last week that may have exposed the personal information of nearly half of all Americans. Credit experts say that freezing credit is one way to prevent identity theft in the wake of the latest information hack.

If your personal information was exposed in the Equifax security breach, it’s a good idea to freeze your credit. Equifax currently waives fees to initiate a credit freeze to help people who may have been affected by the data breach. A credit freeze prevents anyone from opening a new account in your name.

Each of the four credit reporting companies typically charge a fee that varies by state. Plan to pay between $5 and $10 per credit reporting company to initiate a credit freeze. Contact the credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis, to freeze the credit report with each of them.

At some point, everyone needs to use their credit report. Whether they need to rent an apartment, lease a car, or simply open a new line of credit, it's important to know how to lift the freeze, as well. While the process can be accomplished with a phone call it takes an average of 3 business days to remove a freeze and allow access to a credit report.

Lifting the freeze requires a phone call to each of the credit reporting agencies. While you can initiate a credit freeze online doing so over the phone provides more security. Some credit reporting agencies may offer to lock your account, but a credit freeze is the safest option.

To avoid the hassle of contacting all four credit reporting agencies to lift a freeze, simply ask the finance company, credit card company, or Leasing Company which of the credit reporting agencies they use to evaluate potential customers and leave the credit freezes with the other agencies in place.

Keep in mind that people who put a credit freeze in place can't open a new credit card on the spot or take advantage of retail card offers in stores to get an immediate discount in exchange for opening an account. While the Equifax security breach is concerning, it's important to remember that sensitive information is frequently compromised. Credit card companies work hard to detect fraud and stop thieves, fast. Banks and credit card companies are legally responsible for fraudulent charges over $50, so they make a huge effort to identify unusual activity and verify charges that aren't consistent with typical use for their individual customers.

Automated fraud detection computer programs detect possible inconsistencies and customer service reps for the credit card company or bank follow up. Some companies text cardholders requesting verification when a suspicious transaction hits their account.

Even with sophisticated computer programs, credit card fraud is on the rise. Nearly half of all credit card fraud in the world happens in the United States. 45% of identity theft complaints are filed by people over the age of 50. During the year 2016, there were 1,100 security breaches exposing sensitive personal information of millions of customers.

To find out if your personal information may have been exposed in the Equifax data breach, simply visit their website at Enter the last six digits of your Social Security number and your last name to receive a message from Equifax indicating whether they believe personal information was exposed.

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