How Should I Respond to the Equifax Credit Bureau's Database Breach?

Update 9/28/2017:  Equifax's new CEO says that they will offer consumers "the ability to lock and unlock their credit for free" in about 4 months.  That new service might be as good as a credit freeze, but I still recommend investing a few bucks in a credit freeze that secures your credit information now.  See Best Practices below.

Background  

Credit bureaus

You might think that consumers would be able to control who can collect, store, and share our personal information.  But the default business model of U.S. credit bureaus is the opposite--they collect, store, and share your personal information without your permission.  Equifax irresponsibly exposed your name, address, social security number, and driver license number to bad guys, but don't panic.  You don't need to do anything about this specific breach, but it's a reminder to use best practices.

Best Practices

Credit freeze

  1. Monitor your credit card and bank account activity regularly.
  2. Use two-factor authentication for online acccounts.
  3. If you frequently request new credit and loans, new credit grantors need frequent access to your credit information.  By leaving access to your credit information open to them, you incur more risk that someone like Experian will inadvertently expose your information.  You need to be more vigilant.
  4. If you are satisfied with the credit and loans that you already have, new credit grantors rarely need access to your credit information.  You should allow credit grantors access on an exception basis.  Do this with a credit freeze.

Frequently Asked Questions

Credit monitoring