Republic Bank is committed to informing our customers of news that may impact their finances and providing tips to help them safeguard their information.
As you may be aware Equifax, one of the three largest credit reporting companies in the nation, announced a major data breach on Thursday, September 7, 2017. This breach affected 143 million Americans as the compromised information obtained during the breach included Social Security Numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver license and credit card numbers.
Please keep the following in mind
- Be aware of scams and fraudulent emails that contain links that look like they are directing you the Equifax site. These links may actually navigate users to a site that aims to scam users.
- Equifax is promoting their own credit monitoring service, TrustedID, free for one year but may require payment after that. You must waive your right to class-action or personal lawsuits against Equifax to use this service.
- You are not required to use Equifax’s credit monitoring service. There are other options for monitoring your credit, such as LifeLock, and there are fees associated with this service. Make sure to review the terms and agreements of each product before you sign up.
- Other options to help protect your information are credit freezes, fraud alerts, and reviewing your credit report. See the below information on how to complete credit freezes and fraud alerts and well as how to review your credit report.
- Due to the recent compromise at Equifax, you may experience long hold times when contacting the major credit bureaus as the volume of visitors to their sites and calls to their companies has increased.
What is a credit freeze and how does it help?
By placing a credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, on your credit report, you restrict access making it difficult for anyone to open a new account in your name. Each credit bureau will issue a 6 digit PIN that you can use to unfreeze your reports if you choose to open a new line of credit. It is important to keep your PIN secure from potential unauthorized use. If someone attempts to open a new line of credit in your name, they will be instructed to contact the credit bureau and asked for the PIN.
For example, if your information was obtained during the data breach and a person, other than you, tries to open a new line of credit in your name using your date of birth and social security number; your credit report will be ‘blocked’ when the lender tries to pull the report. This action will alert the person attempting to open the line of credit to contact the credit bureau. Please note, it will not state that the report is frozen as this is part of the security feature.
Not all states offer free credit freezes, so check the rules in your state before requesting one. Additionally, depending on your state of residence and circumstances, you may have to pay a fee to place a freeze and/or remove a fee at each bureau. Again, make sure to review the terms and agreements of each product before you sign up.
To place a credit freeze on your credit report you will need to contact each credit bureau to request the freeze. Information to place a freeze is listed at the end of this article.
What is a fraud alert?
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit file. At the end of the 90 days, you can decide whether or not you want to renew it.
For example, maybe you lost your wallet which had your license and insurance cards in it and you notice an unauthorized transaction. You can put a fraud alert on your credit file to notify lenders and others to verify your identity before extending any type of credit to you or someone posing as you.
How can you set up a fraud alert on your credit file?
All you need to do is contact at least one of the three nationwide credit agencies in the United States. All three agencies offer fraud alerts for free. The credit agencies share alerts, so you need to contact only one. Each agency has a number you can call or you can visit its website to place the fraud alert. To place a fraud alert on your credit file, see the information listed at the end of this article.
What if I want to extend the alert?
You can place a fraud alert on your credit file for a period of seven years if you can confirm you’ve been a victim of identity theft. In order to place this alert, you’ll need to submit all the information required to place an initial alert, plus a copy of the police report or similar that documents your identity theft case. Placing an extended fraud alert on your file will disqualify you from receiving any pre-approved credit offers for five years and every creditor must contact you by phone prior to approving any credit in your name.
How can I review my credit report?
All you need to do is visit www.annualcreditreport.com. You can order a free report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once a year. Please remember, ordering a free credit report can give you insight to your credit but it does not prevent identity theft. Free credit reports can be ordered in conjunction with adding a freeze or alert.
To learn more about Experian credit freezes, otherwise known as security freezes, and to place a security freeze, click here.
To learn more about Experian fraud alerts and to place a fraud alert, click here.
Information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views expressed are those of Republic Bank of Chicago.