The Equifax Breach
In light of the recent and disastrous (for us!) Equifax breach, I hope you have all learned the importance of regularly checking your credit reports!
If you haven’t not done this recently (or ever), you need to do so now. Checking your credit report is actually pretty easy and can be done online in just a few minutes.
Not only does it give you a chance you make sure your identity or social security hasn’t been stolen, it also gives you the chance to make sure there are no errors or mistakes on your reports.
Make sure your addresses are correct. Make sure nothing looks amiss. Most common errors included:
- Information that is not yours because of similar names, addresses, etc. Credit reporting agencies may confuse names, addresses, Social Security numbers, or employers. If you have a common name—say, John Smith—your file may contain credit or personal information on other John Smiths, or Jon Smiths and may lack some of your own credit information. Your file may erroneously contain information on family members with similar names.
- Identity theft. If you have been the victim of identity theft, mixed account information may appear in your credit report.
- Information from an ex-spouse. If you have been divorced, your prior spouse’s information may be mixed with yours.
- Outdated information. Accounts may still be listed after the legal deadline for removing them from your reports. Most black marks should “fall off” credit reports after 7 years.
- Incorrect payment status. The payment status of accounts may be incorrect.
- More than one delinquent date on an account. If an account has been transferred to a debt collector, your report may contain more than one date for when the account became delinquent (which triggers how long it may remain in your report).
- Wrong notations for closed accounts. Accounts you closed may look as if the creditor closed the account.
- Remedied/Resolved delinquencies not reported as such. Credit reporting agencies often fail to note accounts in which delinquencies have been remedied.
Having any black marks on your files could mean denial of job offers, higher interest rates on loans, higher insurance rates, or outright denials for new credit/loans. If they should be there in the first place (an error), make sure you dispute them asap. This can be accomplished online and by mail.
Simple errors could be impacting your overall credit score as well.
However, the biggest will always be make sure there are no accounts opened up under your name without your knowledge or authorization.
Checking Your Credit Reports
So, here is where the simple hack comes in.
By law, you can obtain a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com from each of the 3 credit bureaus once a year (Transunion, Equifax, Experian).
Don’t go anywhere else that promises the same things…they don’t. This is the only website you should ever use to obtain your credit reports.
If you are like me, I have already frozen my credit at all three bureaus in lieu of the Equifax breach. But, beforehand, I was annoyed that I could only check my credit reports once every 365 days. What if something happened during the next 364 days? What if someone stole my identity during the 11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days I was unable to check my reports?
We have already learned that some companies are not quick to report these security breaches in the first place.
This is what you can do instead. Check only 1 credit report from 1 of the credit bureaus (for example: Transunion), wait 4 months and then check your credit report at one of the other bureaus (for instance: Experian) and then check your report again in another 4 months at the remaining one (Equifax).
This way you can check your credit reports up to 3 times a year, and all for free!
Freeze Your Credit
But, seriously, with all this Equifax mayhem, your best bet to protect yourself is to check your credit report(s) asap, open up FREE credit monitoring with either Credit Sesame or Credit Karma and then immediately freeze your credit with at all 3 credit bureaus!
Monitoring only goes so far, even if you are paying companies like Life Lock. It alerts you after someone has attempted or succeeded in stealing your identity. A credit freeze will prevent it in the first place!
Read my post on credit freezes here!