• Action 9 offers tips to protect personal info in wake of Equifax breach

    By: Jason Stoogenke

    Updated:

    The Equifax data breach potentially impacted 145 million Americans. Five million of them live in North Carolina, which amounts to two out of every three adults in the state.

    The breach led to lawsuits, including a potential class action filed in North Carolina, federal hearings and state investigations. 


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    North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and his counterparts in other states have been asking Equifax for answers to specific consumer questions. 

    "We are demanding answers," Stein told Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke. "If we conclude they didn't comply with their legal obligations, we will hold them accountable."

    In the meantime, people can do two things to protect themselves:

    1.  Keep a close eye on their financial accounts.

    2.  Freeze their credit so thieves can't open new accounts in their name. 

    Keep a close eye on financial accounts

    Denver resident Krista Quigley keeps a close eye on her finances. 

    "I used to work for a bank for five years, so I'm a 'to the penny' type of girl," Quigley said. "I have the app on my phone and I check it on the computer and on my phone."

    Freeze credit

    It may be easiest for people to freeze credit by phone. It's an automated system, and only takes a few minutes. In most cases, it's free. 

    People should make sure to freeze their credit with all three credit reporting agencies.

    There are lots of myths about freezing, but people shouldn’t believe them.  It won't hurt someone’s credit score. 

    People can also "lift" a freeze whenever they want.  If they ask for a lift by phone or online, the freeze has to "thaw" within 15 minutes -- it's the law.  By mail, it must be within three days.


    7 big questions (and answers) involving Equifax data breach

    Is this a big deal?

    Yes. 145.5 million Americans’ personal information is vulnerable. That includes names, Social Security numbers and even some driver’s license numbers.

    What should I do right away?

    First, freeze your credit and freeze your children's credit, too. Criminals often open accounts in children's names because they won’t find out until they’re adults.

    Second, sign up for free credit monitoring.

    What credit monitoring should I use?

    Equifax is offering free credit monitoring for one year. But many experts say don’t do it (including several state attorneys general).  They say it won’t hurt, but that it won’t help either.  Many experts recommend Credit Karma instead. 

    How do I freeze my credit?

    Make sure you do it with all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

    Don’t worry: it doesn’t hurt your credit score.

    More information here.

    Are there any cons to freezing my credit?

    First, there’s a small fee: usually $5-$10.

    Second, if you need to borrow money, you’ll need to lift the freeze.  It can take a few minutes or a few days to thaw (not terrible, but just be aware if you’re in a rush). 

    If you thaw it, just remember to freeze it again right after.

    Third, a freeze prevents criminals from opening new accounts in your name, but it doesn’t prevent them from messing with your current accounts. 

    Keep an eye on your bank, credit card and other accounts (which you should be doing anyway). 

    Click here for more information about possible fees.

    Can I sue Equifax?

    Yes.  You can always sue. 

    Winning is a different story.  You’d have to prove the breach hurt you somehow. 

    There are several potential class actions already in the works.  Typically, in those cases, you don’t have to do anything. They’ll contact you if you are a member of the class, then it’s up to you if you want to be included.

    Will Equifax call me out of the blue?

    No.  If someone calls, claiming to be with Equifax, needing your personal information, hang up. 

    It’s a scam.

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