In the aftermath of the Great Equifax Breach of 2017, many consumers are asking, “Should I freeze my credit?”
Equifax said that hackers stole personal data, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even some driver’s license numbers, from an estimated 143 million Americans. About 210,000 credit card accounts were also jeopardized, according to Equifax. The company said it discovered the “unauthorized access” on July 29 but kept mum about it until last week. In terms of cybersecurity breaches, this one was pretty much the motherlode ― not because it surpassed the Yahoo breach of December 2016 with 1 billion users affected but because this one occurred on the watch of a company charged with protecting our personal data.
The Federal Trade Commission announced it is investigating the Equifax incident, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into the company’s response to the breach. Members of the House Judiciary, Financial Services, and Energy and Commerce committees have all called for hearings on the matter. And politicians on both sides of the aisle have demanded an explanation.
Consumers, searching for ways to be proactive, may freeze their credit. Plenty of cybersecurity experts suggest that it’s just one of the things consumers can do to protect themselves. Here are some things to think about before you do:
Freezing your credit, at least at the moment, is a major hassle.
While a credit freeze may stop someone from pretending to be you and applying for a credit card or taking out a car loan, it also will block you from doing the same. Once you put a credit freeze on your files, you have to lift it when you want to use your credit and then reestablish the freeze afterward.
To put a credit freeze in place, you must contact each of the three credit reporting agencies separately (Equifax is one of the three) at the companies’ credit freeze portals. If you don’t contact all three, you basically have no “freeze.”
And good luck on that one.
Just getting through to Equifax via its website or phone system has become a job for Superman. Mere mortals just can’t do it. Between the site crashing and the phone lines being jammed, The New York Times asked in all seriousness: Do Equifax’s website and phone systems actually [even] work at this point?
Times columnist Ron Lieber reported that some people are waiting until the middle of the night to use Equifax’s security freeze website and then…