Equifax is a national credit bureau that collects information about the credit history of individual Americans. The company experienced the most significant security breach in American history. Hackers accessed the private information of an estimated 5 million North Carolinians. Information that can be used to commit ID theft and financial fraud including full names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and in some cases driver license numbers, were stolen.
What is North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein doing about it?
Attorney General Stein is taking action on behalf of North Carolina consumers affected by the breach. He is taking a lead role in an investigation into Equifax conducted with a bipartisan group of attorneys general from across the nation. In addition, Attorney General Stein has contacted Equifax to demand more information about how this breach occurred and what the company is doing to protect affected consumers. He has also written to the other two national credit bureaus (Experian and TransUnion) seeking information about their processes and how they plan to protect individual consumer’s private information going forward.
What do you need to do about it?
First, find out if you are impacted. If you are, we strongly suggest you consider freezing your credit with all of the credit reporting services. (You should also start checking your credit reports periodically – if you see a credit card or a charge account you don’t recognize, it could be a sign of ID theft or financial fraud.) Even if you aren’t impacted by this particular breach, we still recommend these steps.
“Chip” credit cards have reduced overall credit card fraud, but New Account fraud (where someone opens a new account using your name and information) has increased. Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, protect you against New Account fraud.
National news stories about the Equifax breach often say that you have to pay to freeze your credit. That is not true in our state – Security freezes are free for North Carolinians if you do them online. So it takes some of your time, but none of your money, to freeze access to your credit reports.
How to Get Free Security Freezes Online
To establish your security freezes, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus online:
(Note: the links above will take you to the websites for the three credit bureaus. These sites are separate from www.ncdoj.gov.)
Be prepared to provide detailed information about yourself, including:
- Your Social Security Number
(Note: The credit bureaus already have this information in their files. You will be providing it to verify your identity. You may also be asked questions about your financial history, previous addresses where you may have lived, etc. to help confirm your identity to the company.)
Keep Your PINs or Passwords
When you freeze your credit online, the company will assign you a PIN (Personal Information Number) or password. Make sure to print or write down your PIN, and keep it in a safe place. You will need it when you lift or remove your security freezes, and this online transaction may be the only time the company displays your PIN to you.
If You Lose Your PIN
If you lose your PIN or password, the company must give you a new one free of charge. If you lose it a second time, the company can charge up to $3 to give you a new one.
To receive a new PIN from Equifax or TransUnion, you must make your request in writing and provide proof of identification. (A copy of your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, etc.) Mailing addresses for those credit bureaus can be found below. To receive a new PIN from Experian, visit this page and select “Retrieve My Personal Identification Number.”
How to get Security Freezes by Phone or Mail
You can also establish and manage a security freeze by mail or phone. These methods are always free for identity theft victims who have filed a police report, their spouses, and consumers over the age of 62. Other consumers can be charged up to $3 per credit bureau each time they establish a security freeze by mail or phone, although some credit bureaus are not currently charging consumers these fees. Before requesting a security freeze by mail or phone, check the credit bureau’s website to see if they charge a fee.
Security Freezes by Mail
Credit bureaus will usually comply with your written request for a security freeze within three business days after they receive it. To request a security freeze by mail, send a letter to each of the three credit bureaus at the addresses listed below.
Your letter should include:
- Your full name including middle initial and any suffix (such as Jr.)
- Your home addresses for the last five years
- Your Social Security number and date of birth
- Two proofs of residence (examples: a copy of your driver’s license, utility bill, insurance statement, bank statement)
- Police or DMV report, if you’re a victim of identity theft
If the credit bureau charges a $3 fee for security freezes by mail, include payment by check, money order or major credit card. (Include the card name, account number, expiration date, and three or four digit identification number on the back of card.)
To save time, you can use our Security Freeze Request form letters for Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Enter your personal information on each letter, then print each letter and sign it. You can send your letters to the three credit bureaus by first-class mail, but for additional security you may want to send them by certified mail.
(Note: The credit bureaus already have your name and other personal information in their files. You will be providing it to verify your identity.)
Security Freezes by Phone
Most credit bureaus will usually comply with your request by phone for a security freeze within 24 hours. To place a freeze by phone, call each of the three credit bureaus. Be prepared to supply the information listed above including your driver’s license number and account numbers. If the credit bureau charges a fee for security freezes by phone, be prepared to provide payment information.
Contact Information to Request a Security Freeze by Mail or Phone
|PO Box 105788
||PO Box 9554
||PO Box 2000
|Atlanta, GA 30348
||Allen, TX 75013
||Chester, PA 19016
Keep Your PINs or Passwords
When you establish a security freeze with a credit bureau, the company will provide you with a PIN (Personal Information Number) or password. Make sure you keep this information in a safe place. You will need it when you lift or remove your security freeze.
(Note: If you get your freeze by phone, be ready to write down your new PIN. Near the end of your call the automated system may state your PIN quickly, and with little or no warning. Your PIN may not be repeated, so be prepared to write it down.)
Protected Consumer Security Freezes
Under North Carolina law you can now freeze the credit reports of children and incapacitated adults.
Finally, scammers are always on the lookout for situations they can exploit to steal your money and as expected they are piggybacking on the Equifax breach. Beware of scammers trying to capitalize on the Equifax breach.
There are also additional steps you can take to protect yourself. The Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Consumer Reports are all offering useful information.