LIFEHACKER: How to Protect Your Credit Now That Equifax's Monitoring Service Has Ended
Posted on February 6th, 2019
Editor’s note: After the 2017 Equifax data breach QTIPS recommended that users avoid using the credit bureau’s TrustedID Premier service. Reasons were explained in this QTIPS blog post from October 2017.
That QTIPS post also highlighted instructions from the Federal Trade Commission (link below) that enable consumers to easily freeze their credit reports without credit bureau hype, expense, and runaround: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs#place
Update: Lifehacker recently covered a Consumer Reports followup on Equifax and its questionable TrustedID Premier product.
If you signed up for Equifax’s TrustedID Premier after the credit bureau’s massive 2017 data hack, you’ll need to find a new credit monitoring service, writes Consumer Reports.
TrustID Premier was offered by Equifax to U.S. consumers in the wake of the data breach that exposed the personal information of 145.5 million people. It gave people a copy of their Equifax credit report, credit monitoring of their Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit reports and identity theft insurance, among other things.
Though Equifax’s service expired at the end of January, your personal information hasn’t, and you’re still vulnerable to scams and ID theft. Here’s how to be proactive about protecting yourself.
What to Do When There’s a Data Breach
We will all, inevitably, be affected by a data breach of some kind (you likely have been already).…
Freeze Your Reports
A credit freeze prevents scammers from opening up new accounts in your name. You can now do this for free at the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It’s recommended that you freeze your credit at all three so that it’s actually effective. If you placed a freeze on your account after the hack, it should still be in place.
To freeze your accounts, go the bureaus’s websites (linked above) and follow the instructions. Remember, if you want to apply for a mortgage, for example, or get a new credit card, you’ll need to unfreeze your accounts. How to "thaw" the freeze varies by bureau; make note of it when you’re placing the freeze.
The rules for a credit freeze are established by law, according to the New York Times, which makes them more secure for a consumer than something like a credit lock, which varies company-to-company.
Lock Your Credit
You also have the option to lock your credit accounts. A credit lock also does not allow creditors to access your accounts, but it can be turned off online more simply than a freeze. This is the less-safe option, but it might be easier to manage.
TrustedID Premier locked your Equifax report, but "the locks will automatically lift when TrustedID expires," reports the Times. That means you’ll have to use a different service to lock your account now.
Also note: Equifax and TransUnion offer free locks (TransUnion also offers a paid product) while Experian charges $20 per month after a free 30-day trial. To be most effective, you’ll want to lock your reports at all three bureaus.
Freeze Your Credit Instead of Messing With Equifax’s New App
Equifax has a new app (iOS, Android) that’s meant to make it easy to lock and unlock access to your credit report.
Use a Credit Monitoring Service
You can find a free credit monitoring service through something like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. These services will alert you to activity on your credit file, though this usually means the theft has already occurred—it’s more of a bandaid than a preventative measure.
Regularly Pull Your Credit Report
Finally, make a habit of pulling your credit report. You can access a free copy from each bureau every year at www.annualcreditreport.com, but you can also use a service like Credit Karma for free access to some of your reports anytime.
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