If you were one of the estimated 143 million Americans whose sensitive personal data was exposed in the recently revealed hack of the credit bureau Equifax, one of the first things you should do is put a freeze on your credit files.
In an analysis yesterday of the Equifax breach, IT security writer Brian Krebs recommended that people who believe their data is at risk should file a security freeze with the major credit bureaus. In the U.S., those reporting agencies include Experian, Equifax, Innovis, and TransUnion.
A freeze on an individual’s credit files ensures that identity thieves will not be able to use that person’s personal information to obtain loans or lines of credit. Anyone with a credit freeze can still seek loans or lines of credit by personally agreeing to unfreeze the information for those purposes.
On Thursday, Equifax revealed that a security breach that occurred between the middle of May and July could have exposed the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other information of as many as 143 million U.S. consumers. An unspecified number of people in Canada and the U.K. might also have been affected, the company said.
File for Credit Freeze
People can usually file a credit freeze online, although some reporting agencies might require a request by phone or in writing, Krebs said. Filing can also sometimes require paying a fee, although that payment can be waived in most states with proof of a legitimate identity theft threat, he added.
“With a freeze in place on your credit file, ID thieves can apply for credit in your name all they want, but they will not succeed in getting new lines of credit in your name because few if any creditors will extend that credit without first being able to gauge how risky it…