To freeze or not freeze your credit? What you should do after the Equifax hacking

For thousands affected by the Equifax credit breach...they need to figure out where to go from here.

The massive Equifax data breach has the information of 143 million people. Hackers gained access to credit card numbers for roughly 209,000 people.

Now officials we spoke with say everyone should check if their personal information is compromised.
However, a lot of people don't know where to go from there and whether to freeze or not freeze their accounts.

44% of American's personal information up for grabs through Equifax. One man in Downtown Norfolk, Wayne Espinoza said he checked if he was twice on Equifax’s website twice.

“This kind of alarmed me," said Espinoza. He said on the second time he checked, "They said that I may have been affected."

Now he’s just one of millions who are left questioning what to do after checking the Equifax website.

Old Dominion University's Department of Economics Chair, Chip Filer said there’s "A lot of information right now."

For now, he suggests people who are worried about their information being hacked to check the Federal Trade Commission website.

"They have a website dedicated to the Equifax breach," said Professor Filer.

The Federal Trade Commission website has tips including checking your credit reports for the big three credit agencies. Those are Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian.

For a free link click here: annualcreditreport.com

The commission also recommends monitoring your credit cards and bank accounts, or placing a fraud alert on your files.

However, Professor Filer said "That in and of itself is a problem because some of those are also scams on the web."

Finally, you can put a credit freeze on your files. With a credit freeze, new accounts cannot be opened in your name.

"It is pretty inconvenient. So, if you're one of those that knows you're going to be buying a car, you're going to be buying a house, the credit freeze might not be the way you want to go," said Filer.

Before you do that though, freezing your credit could cost you depending on where you live. It is free in 7 states, including North Carolina, but in Virginia it costs ten dollars.

Another option, to prevent hackers attacking your credit, is to stop each credit card separately. However, hackers are most likely looking to open accounts in your name or starting false tax returns.

"If you miss catching that early, it could be pretty ugly trying to get that fixed," said Filer.

Equifax said a typical freeze fee is now waived through Equifax, if you've been affected. To avoid paying though, you must act before November 21st.

Of course, the Equifax website lets you check if the hacking impacts you by interring your name and social security number. If you're going to use identity theft protection, go to the Better Business Bureau website.That way you can make sure it's a legitimate identity protection program.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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