Ever since Equifax revealed that criminals stole the personal information of 143 million Americans, money expert Clark Howard has urged everyone to freeze their credit.
He has repeated a simple two-step process to protect yourself from identity fraud in the wake of the massive hack.
First, Clark recommends that you set up free credit monitoring with Credit Karma, and secondly, freeze your credit with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
“Do not pay for credit monitoring. Credit Karma is 100% free and forever,” Clark said.
Ignore emails for paid credit monitoring services
A few days after I followed Clark’s Credit Freeze Guide and placed a security freeze with the three major credit bureaus in just 17 minutes, Experian sent me an email with this subject line:
“Considering a credit freeze? Read this first.”
A link in the email took me to a page on Experian’s site that explained the difference between a credit freeze, a fraud alert and Experian’s CreditLock — which is part of a paid membership.
Several “Protect Yourself Now” buttons directed me to various services that cost between $9.99 and $24.99 per month.
I found this messaging very confusing. Clark continues to say that a credit freeze is the #1 way to protect yourself against identity theft, so why is Experian trying to sell me something else?
The answer is money. Credit monitoring and identity theft protection is a highly profitable part of their business.
All three of the main credit bureaus pitch similar monthly subscriptions, including Equifax, which recently offered every U.S. consumer a free year of its TrustedID Premier service.
But what happens after one year? That’s why Clark insists that you’re better off going with Credit Karma.
The reason why I shared this email from Experian with you is that I know that you or someone in your life may receive one just like it — but now you know to just delete it!
To recap, here are the two steps Clark says you need to take to protect yourself:
1. Sign up for Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring: Go to CreditKarma.com to sign up for a free account and you’ll get access to free credit monitoring. If they notice any suspicious activity, you’ll get an alert. Plus, Credit Karma also gives you free access to your credit scores and reports, as well as tips on what factors are impacting your credit.
2. Freeze your credit with all three main credit bureaus: By freezing your credit files, you can prevent criminals from using your information to wreak havoc on your financial life. Even if your info was not exposed by the Equifax hack, this is the best way to protect your identity and your money.
Clark froze his credit for the first time more than a decade ago and has only had to temporarily lift the freeze a handful of times. Get started with his step-by-step Credit Freeze Guide.