As more information becomes available about the Equifax data breach, many consumers have questions relating to how it affects them — and their credit — personally.
The Atlanta-based credit reporting agency recently announced that as many as 143 million people were exposed when hackers exploited a website application to access protected files earlier this year. Equifax, one of three main cogs in the U.S. lending industry, waited six weeks to tell the public, leading to outrage and calls for class-action lawsuits.
Money expert Clark Howard said the No. 1 way to protect yourself from identity fraud is by freezing your credit. But one of the main questions consumers want to know is what exactly is a credit freeze.
What does a credit freeze do?
A credit freeze blocks other people — criminals, relatives, everybody — from opening a line of credit in your name. It specifically stops or freezes “new account” inquiries, preventing criminals who may already have your data from going forward with the credit-building process.
The thing is, the freeze stops creditors and lenders from legitimately inquiring about your credit, something they need to do to prove you are who you say you are. That means that if you’re in the market for a home or new vehicle, a credit freeze can be quite the headache.
Once you’ve frozen your credit, you’ll receive a unique PIN from each of the three main credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Whatever you do, don’t lose your PIN. It could be the only way you can access to your credit.
Equifax breach: 5 things to expect when freezing your credit
Equifax breach: Consumers are beyond frustrated
Equifax breach: Get the latest info and advice all in one place
Equifax breach: 2 steps to protect your money & identity!
If you have specific questions about the Equifax breach and how it may impact you, contact Clark’s Consumer Action Center — a FREE help line open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. EST with volunteers available to answer YOUR concerns! Call Team Clark @ 404-892-8227.