January 16, 2018. By Matthew Okaty:

It’s been approximately four months since we all learned of the Equifax hack, and hopefully everyone has taken some kind of action to help safeguard their identity and credit.  While the incident may have faded from the headlines, it’s important to not let it fade from our memories or list of priorities.   So with the beginning of a new year upon us, one worthwhile resolution is to check your credit report three times per year – starting now if you have not already done so.   It only takes a few minutes and may be much easier to keep than most New Year’s resolutions (eating healthier, exercising more, learning a new language, etc.) yet no less important.  Think of checking your credit report like going to your annual physical, except instead of your body’s health, it’s your financial health and identity that’s of concern.  Although you may feel perfectly fine, the only way of knowing for sure whether your identity hasn’t been compromised is to check your credit report, and the sooner you catch any fraudulent activity the better your chances of making a swift recovery.  As a reminder, you can go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get your one free report a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian).

Additionally, Equifax has extended the deadline for enrolling in its complementary credit monitoring services (TrustedID Premier) to January 31, 2018.  Included in the service is the ability to lock your Equifax credit file which would prevent fraudsters from opening credit in your name with businesses that rely on Equifax for credit checks.  Transunion offers a similar free service (TrueIdentity) along with the ability to lock your Transunion credit file, but be aware that Transunion also offers a “premium” service for a monthly charge and they may try to upsell you to this product.  Experian is the only major credit reporting agency at this time that does not offer a free credit monitoring service.  Therefore, if you would like to lock your Experian credit file without signing up for a paid subscription, you would need to actually freeze your credit file with them which usually entails a small one-time fee.    With all the free services available through credit agencies right now and alerts you can get from your bank and credit card companies,  I would be very cautious before signing up for a paid credit monitoring service. I recommend comparing the offers or subscriptions closely to see if it’s worth what you’re actually paying for.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and good luck with your New Year’s Resolutions!