I started picking the brain of my friend attorney Mike Cardoza about all of the personal credit information stolen from Equifax when we met last month at the NCLC Consumer Rights Litigation Conference.
Mike’s the guy to ask since he describes his practice as suing credit bureaus in order to fix clients’ faulty credit reports.
Instead of making notes, I got Mike to tell us all what a seasoned consumer lawyer recommends.
With the Equifax data breach of 2017, consumers – people like you and me – are more at risk than ever.
Did you know, for example that the credit bureaus DON’T use all nine digits of a person’s social security number in order to verify the accuracy of the information they’re adding to your file?!
And that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Here are the four steps that I recommend you take immediately to protect yourself from false and damaging information being included in YOUR credit report:
1. DON’T go to the Equifax web site
Why? Just after the breach was announced (which was a full 30 days after senior executives knew about it and sold some of their personal stock in the company), Equifax told everyone to go its website and get free protection.
Well, guess what? That free protection included a mandatory arbitration clause buried in those terms and conditions you had to click in order to get it.
That meant that you and everyone who went to the site gave them an agreement never to sue them – just like a “get out of jail free” card! (Shocking, I know).
After the outrage, Equifax claimed to have removed that arbitration clause, but still, going to Equifax isn’t going to help if it turns out you have a problem.
2. DON’T bother getting a “credit freeze”
A credit freeze doesn’t stop thieves from making changes to your existing accounts.
It doesn’t stop the credit card offers from being blasted out into your (or your neighbor’s) mailbox, and it makes everyday life (like getting a discount by opening a store credit card, upgrading your cell phone plan, or adjusting your utilities or cable service) a major pain in the keister!
3. DO: Monitor your credit reports (and score) in real-time for free for unusual activity
I like to use Credit Karma – you have to give personal information, they only show 2 of the 3 bureaus, and they make money by pitching you sponsored credit card offers – because it’s accurate and instantaneous.
Get the app and let it send you notifications on your phone.
4. DO: Get your full credit report
Once a year, get your report from all 3 major bureaus in paper and delivered to your house – for free. If you haven’t done that in the past 12 months, do it now.
Why? Because those paper credit scores are way more detailed than anything you get online, AND they can be used as evidence of identity theft or in court in the event you need to dispute something on there that doesn’t belong to you!
If you’d like, I’ll send you some instructions by email (for free, of course) about exactly
- how to get those reports,
- exactly what to look for when you get them, and
- what to do about it if you find something in there that is wrong.
Just click on “The Ultimate Credit Clean Up Machine” image below to give me your email and get the info.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 21% (that’s 1 in 5) of Americans has a mistake on their credit report – and it could be one that’s costing you real money!
Don’t suffer not knowing – just pull that band-aid off and see if your credit could possibly be any better than it already is. You kind of owe it to yourself (and your family).