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26 Sep 2017
Here's some unexpected advice about what to do about the recent giant Equifax breach: nothing.
The reasoning is pretty simple. Equifax leaked personal data about something like 140 million people, which is more than half of all of the adults in the United States. This is a ridiculously large amount of data. It is so large that the chances you being defrauded by a bad guy using your data, as opposed to the data of one of the 139,999,999 other victims, is not appeciably higher than it was before. It also means that bad guys will be trawling through the breach data for years, so one year of credit monitoring or credit freezes isn't going to help much.
Having said that, there are some straightforward things you should be doing anyway. Unless you are the sort of person who signs up for every credit card that offers a signup bonus and refinances her mortgage every year, it was already a good idea to freeze your credit report. As has been widely reported, Equifax is totally swamped by freeze requests, so maybe make a note to do it next month or the month after that. I doubt there's much rush.
All Americans are entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each of the big three every year. You can get them from www.annualcreditreport.com. (Any other URL offering "free" credit reports will try and sign you up for useless extra cost add-ons, so only use that one.) I'd suggest staggering them so you get a copy every four months from a different service. Take a look, if you see anything surprising you have a place to start and fix it.
You can also get monthly reports about your credit score. The Discover card will give them to anyone, even if you're not a cardholoder. See www.discover.com/free-credit-score. I know that Capital One provides them free to cardholders, and other card companies probably do too. In most cases your score shouldn't change much from one month to the next; if it does and you haven't done something to affect it, like miss a mortgage payment, you have more clues to look for problems.
These are good ideas with or without the Equifax breach, and cost nothing other than a little of your time.
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