My clients are freaked out about the danger from the Equifax breach. I really don't know how to advise them regarding how to protect themselves from damage. What should I be telling them?
–From several loan officers and agents
I feel your pain. I went on the Equifax site myself and saw that my own information may have been compromised. They have offered credit monitoring; however, there were stories about giving up rights if you signed up for it. Since then, it seems that they have backed off this stance. From my point of view, I am not an expert, so again I have reached out to our credit expert, Chad Kusner of Credit Repair Resources (888-927-7760/[email protected]
). Here is what Chad had to say:
The Equifax breach affected roughly 143 million Americans. It’s estimated that the bureaus maintain roughly 200 million records. That means 75% of consumers who have credit files were compromised. With this and the litany of other hacks that continue to happen, here is some information on two ways you can work to protect your credit: Credit freezes and fraud alerts. First, we will address credit freezes:
- A credit freeze locks your credit down like a vault. No new credit can be established while a freeze is in place. In order to initiate a credit freeze, you will need to contact each of the individual credit reporting agencies. Below are their phone numbers. You will be required to prove your identity.
- You’ll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary depending on the state you live in, but commonly range from $5 to $10.
- After you place the freeze, each bureau will send you an individual PIN number. Keep this safe as you will need it in order to unfreeze your credit. You can lift the freeze temporarily or permanently. The bureaus have three days to lift the freeze. Again, depending where you live, the cost to lift will vary.
- It’s important to know that a credit freeze will not prevent your existing accounts from being accessed. You should check your statements regularly and continue to monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. You can still apply for credit but you’ll have to temporarily lift the freeze in order to do so. Also, a freeze will not affect your credit scores and you can still access your free annual credit report.
More information from Chad next week on fraud alerts.
Dave Hershman has been the leading author and a top speaker for the industry for decades with six books authored and hundreds of articles published. His website is www.originationpro.com. If you have a reaction to this commentary or another question you would like answered in this column? Email Dave directly at [email protected].
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