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Credit freeze, fraud alerts offer some protection from identity theft after Equifax hack

Posted September 11
Updated September 13

— Anyone who has credit has information with Equifax, from names and birth dates to Social Security and driver's license numbers.

Along with Experian and TransUnion, Equifax is one of the credit-reporting firms that lenders and retailers check when people apply for a mortgage, buy a car or open a credit card account. Some employers even check with the three firms to screen job applicants.

Last week, Equifax announced that hackers had broken into its systems and stolen personal information for 143 million Americans. Although the company has offered one year of free credit monitoring – it dropped a heavily criticized arbitration requirement to settle claims of people who accept the offer – but that service doesn't prevent identity theft. It only lets people know more quickly when it happens.

So, here are some suggestions to help block people from using stolen information to steal your identity:

Freeze your credit: This will make it difficult for thieves to open accounts in your name, but it will also slow you down if you need a mortgage or other loan or credit card.

Fraud alerts: A 90-day alert warns potential creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.

Check your credit often: Each of the three credit-reporting firms offers one free credit report per person annually.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said 5 million state residents are affected by the Equifax data breach.

"My office has contacted Equifax to demand answers about how it will protect people and prevent future security issues," Stein said in a statement. "That includes asking for information about Equifax’s plans to waive fees collected for consumers who request a security freeze, reimbursements for consumers who choose to request a security freeze from other credit reporting agencies, and a detailed description of the credit monitoring and report lock Equifax is offering to consumers."

He said he and other state attorneys general are working together to investigate the data breach.

Meanwhile, Equifax says it has tripled its call center team to handle the volume of calls from concerned consumers.

Anyone worried about data and cyber security can learn from experts at the next WRAL TechWire event Sept. 26 in Research Triangle Park on how to minimize risk and how Triangle-area businesses are turning threats into opportunity.

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  • Rodney Hill Sep 13, 6:39 p.m.
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    Good to know. How much did it cost?

  • Stacie Hagwood Sep 13, 4:58 p.m.
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    It took about 25 minutes to freeze my credit with all 3 bureaus: 5 minutes each for Experian and Equifax, and 15 minutes for Transunion.