By all reports, most Florida consumers are panicked in the wake of the Equifax breach. However, strangely enough, they have not all taken identity theft protection measures. In fact, a recent survey from Credit Sesame revealed that the majority of Florida consumers haven’t checked whether or not their personal information was compromised in the breach. Specifically, 59% of consumers with good credit scores and 73% of those with low credit scores have not checked their status with Equifax.
Florida consumers may just assume that they were affected by the Equifax breach. After all, during the breach, hackers stole information belonging to approximately 145.5 million U.S. consumers. That’s roughly half of the population. Still, it’s good to know for sure, and it is incredibly simple to check your status. Just go to Equifax.com, and click the “Am I Impacted?” button. Then, fill in your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number, and wait a half second for your instant result.
Unfortunately, though, this is the easy part. If you find out that your Social Security number, along with other information, is exposed, what should you do? Surprisingly, many affected Florida consumers are doing little or nothing to protect themselves against identity theft in the wake of the Equifax breach.
What Florida Consumers are and are NOT Doing to Prevent Identity Theft after the Equifax Breach
According to a CreditCards.com survey, one out of every four Americans checked their credit reports after hearing about the Equifax breach. This is a fairly low number, considering that the Equifax hack represents the largest data breach of its kind in U.S. history. Unfortunately, Florida consumers are very familiar with the threat of identity theft.
On WalletHub’s 2017 list of the “Worst States for Identity Theft and Fraud,” Florida ranks number four. Hopefully, the Florida residents who did not check their credit reports in the wake of the Equifax breach had already pulled their credit reports this year just out of habit.
Following the Equifax breach, many credit experts recommended credit report freezes to consumers in Florida and other states. When you freeze your credit reports, lenders and creditors cannot pull them in order to approve new accounts. Effectively, this prevents would-be identity thieves from taking out loans or opening credit card accounts in your name. Clearly, credit report freezes offer consumers fairly solid protection against identity theft. Yet, if the Credit Sesame survey is accurate, 86% of U.S. consumers have not yet frozen their credit reports.
It is possible that Florida consumers are reluctant to pay credit freezing fees. For a limited time, Equifax has waived its fees for freezing and unfreezing credit reports. Also, TransUnion offers a free credit locking service. Please note that credit locks are not the same as credit report freezes. Still, it is a free identity theft protection service.
As for the third major credit bureau, Experian, they currently stand alone. It is the only credit bureau still charging for credit report freezes and not offering a free alternative. However, if the Florida Attorney General and the AGs from almost every other state get their way, this could change in the near future.
What Florida Consumers Should do to Prevent Identity Theft in the Wake of the Equifax Breach
When it comes to preventing identity theft in a post-Equifax-breach world, Florida consumers have a few options. Yes, credit report freezes are effective, but they won’t eliminate every identity theft threat. For example, even with active credit report freezes, identity thieves can still impersonate you to make fraudulent charges with your existing credit card accounts. They can also steal your medical records, tax refund, and Social Security payments.
Signing up for a credit monitoring service is another good, preventive option. These services can protect Florida consumers against identity theft by alerting them to any credit report activity. Right now, Equifax allows consumers to sign up for one free year of its TrustedID Premier service. Or, several other paid options out there typically cost around $20 a month.
Finally, all Florida residents, no matter what other options they pursue, should at least do two very important things. First, they should file their tax returns early this year to prevent scammers from using their information to file fraudulent returns and steal their refunds. Next, they should check their credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.
Every 12 months, Florida consumers can request free credit reports from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. The easiest way to do this is to visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
If, while going over your credit reports, you notice signs of identity theft, such as bogus accounts, file a police report immediately. Then, contact Credit Repair Lawyers of America in Florida. When you call or email our firm, an experienced credit attorney will dispute and demand the removal of fraudulent items – for FREE.
The Free and Legal Way to Get Better Credit After Identity Theft
Don’t let fraudulent accounts on your credit reports bring your credit score down. At Credit Repair Lawyers of America, we’ve been cleaning up credit reports for consumers since 2008 for free. How do we do it? All of our fees come from the defendants in settled cases. This is why our clients pay nothing for the work we do.
Let’s start the conversation about what we can do for your credit. Set up your free consultation today by calling Attorney Gary Nitzkin at (813) 940-7255 or sending him a message through our contact page.
For more information about Free Credit Repair After Identity Theft, check out https://creditrepairlawyersam.com/florida/fix-identity-theft/.