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The Optimal Reaction to a Data Breach: Implementing a Credit Freeze

The Optimal Reaction to a Data Breach: Implementing a Credit Freeze

November 28, 2023

The recent data breach and its impact on your personal information may have you concerned. Discover a straightforward measure to safeguard your identity starting today.

Constantly bombarded with headlines like the Equifax leak of 143 million records[1], one billion exposed in a Yahoo breach[2], and up to 110 million compromised records at Target[3], you're often hurried into free credit monitoring programs post-hack, promising vigilance over your files and alerting you to any suspicious activity.

But is relying on post-fraud alerts truly sufficient for your safety? Shouldn't there be a way to prevent criminals from fraudulently opening new credit in the first place?

Enter the credit freeze, also known as a security freeze. This solution, though not widely publicized by credit agencies due to its disruption of the seamless credit system, empowers you to proactively thwart fraudulent activities. By default, your credit files at Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion remain open and vulnerable. The current system's convenience allows for quick access to new lines of credit—submit an application, undergo a credit check, and approval follows if you meet the standards.

However, this ease of access exposes you to considerable risk. Given the escalating frequency of data breaches, it's highly probable that your personal information—name, birthdate, Social Security number—has already been compromised. Armed with such data, hackers can stealthily steal your identity and acquire new credit without your awareness.

Freeze Your Credit

Protecting your credit file involves a crucial step: implementing a security freeze, which locks your credit file at each bureau using an exclusive PIN known only to you. This PIN is a mandatory requirement for accessing your credit file or initiating new credit in your name.

It is of utmost importance that you consider promptly freezing your credit with the major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

A security freeze provides superior protection compared to widely promoted credit monitoring and fraud alerts. Credit monitoring fails to prevent a thief from opening a new account in your name; instead, it informs you post-fraud, assuming its monitoring is accurate. This method falls short in offering robust identity theft protection, as rectifying your file still demands your time and effort. Another alternative, the fraud alert, provides more security than credit monitoring but falls short of ensuring complete protection. While it can be placed on your account following any fraudulent activity, it necessitates businesses to verify your identity before granting new credit. However, a fraud alert expires after 90 days and requires continual renewal, making it inconvenient.

In contrast, a security freeze grants you absolute control over your credit file, representing the most effective method for safeguarding your credit and identity. Unlike credit monitoring or fraud alerts, a security freeze proactively prevents identity theft rather than merely notifying you after the fact.

How To Do It

Initiating a security freeze involves reaching out to each credit bureau separately. This can be accomplished either through online channels or over the phone. During this process, you'll be required to answer a few identity confirmation questions, but the entire procedure typically takes only a few minutes.

You can freeze your credit by using the following phone numbers and websites:

• Equifax: 888-378-4329 / www.equifax.com/ personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze
• Experian: 888-397-3742 / www.experian.com/freeze
• Transunion: 888-916-8800 / www.transunion.com/credit-freeze

Credit freezes are free for residents in all 50 states.

To remove your freeze, just get in touch with the bureau utilized by the lender and furnish your PIN to temporarily lift the freeze. This can be executed through online means or over the phone. Keep in mind that it might take a few days for the freeze to be lifted, so make sure to initiate the process a few days before any looming deadlines you need to meet.

Stay Vigilant

Safeguarding your credit offers reassurance amid news of the most recent data breach. Nevertheless, it's crucial to remain vigilant about your credit status. Consumers are entitled to receive one complimentary credit report from each reporting agency annually. Make the most of this legal provision and consistently monitor your credit reports for any discrepancies.


[1]: https://www.csoonline.com/article/567833/equifax-data-breach-faq-what-happened-who-was-affected-what-was-the-impact.html#:~:text=It%20potentially%20affected%20143%20million,drivers'%20licenses%20numbers%20were%20exposed

[2]: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/technology/yahoo-hack.html

[3]: https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/target-says-stolen-info-data-breach-hit-70-million-people-flna2d11894083

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Anthony Synegal is a Registered Representative of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS). OSJ: 5280 CARROLL CANYON ROAD, SUITE 300, SAN DIEGO CA, 92121, 619-6846400. Securities products offered through PAS, member FINRA, SIPC. Financial Representative of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. PAS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. WestPac Wealth Partners LLC is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian. Insurance products offered through WestPac Wealth Partners and Insurance Services, LLC, a DBA of WestPac Wealth Partners, LLC. CA Insurance License #4116642 | Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, and employees do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice.  Consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional regarding your individual situation. | 2023-164866 Exp. 11/25