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Earlier this year one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, had a major cyber security incident. Hackers accessed people’s names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and some even found driver license numbers. They also stole credit card information for over 200,000 people.

 

Equifax gets information from credit card companies, banks, lenders, and retailers to help determine a person’s credit score; so even if you don’t think that you were affected by the security breach, you may have been.

 

You can find out if you were affected by the breach by

1. Visiting www.Equifaxsecurity2017.com

2. Click on "Am I Impacted"
3. Enter your last name and last six digits of your social security number - on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it.
4. You will get one of two responses

It will say "we believe that your personal information was not impacted" or "we believe that your personal information was impacted."

 

Regardless if you were affected by the breach or not, it’s recommended that you protect you review your information and protect it by -

  1. Visiting www.annualcreditreport.com and pull a credit report to see if there's been any activity.
  2. Consider putting a fraud alert on your three accounts - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It's free and good for 90 days.
  3. Consider putting a freeze on your accounts

So, what’s the difference between a fraud alert and a credit freeze?

 

Heather Massey, Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau for the Permian Basin, says that with a fraud alert businesses must be able to verify identity for the consumer before opening a new line of credit. With a credit freeze no one, inlcuding the consumer themselves can access the person's credit report to open a new account. These options do not affect your credit score. The fraud alert is free bu the credit freeze costs $10.

 

Massey went on to say that ultimately, fraud alerts are much more commonly used between the two but may not be as effective as credit freezing when it comes to keeping someone from opening new accounts. The fraud alert lasts 90 days and will automatically expire unless it is reactivated by the consumer. It is important to note that identity theft victims are entitled to an extended fraud alert which can last up to 7 years.

 

In Texas, a credit freeze lasts until the consumer lifts it, either temporarily or permanently. Unfreezing the account can take up to several days.

 

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