Look for this letter if you have been affected by Equifax’s massive data breach

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You can get it by mail or e-mail.

Key points

  • The colossal Equifax data breach in 2017 exposed a huge amount of consumer information.
  • As part of a settlement, the company must now offer free credit monitoring to those who sign up.

In 2017, Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus, was the subject of a major data breach that leaked sensitive information belonging to millions of American consumers. As part of its settlement, consumers had the choice of requesting a $125 lump sum payment or free credit monitoring from the three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Many consumers opted for the latter – free credit monitoring – rather than a cash lump sum. The reason? Those who chose the cash option were warned that if too many people claimed it, that $125 would be reduced to a much smaller sum. And so many consumers opted for credit monitoring not only because it seemed like the best deal, but also because of the peace of mind it gave them.

If you opted for the free credit monitoring option, you should soon receive a letter or email, or you may have already received one. It pays to act on this notice to put your protection in place.

The peace of mind you deserve

If you are eligible for free credit monitoring following the data breach from Equifax, you should expect to receive a notice prompting you to register with Experian IdentityWorks. Yes, you read that right.

Even though it was not Experian that had the breach, it was an Experian service offered for an Equifax issue. If you are prompted to sign up for IdentityWorks, rest assured that it is not a scam.

Once you receive your instructions to register, you will receive a website and an activation code to enter. You’ll also receive a deadline to sign up for credit monitoring (although that deadline could be a few months away).

From there, signing up is simple. You’ll just have to enter some personal information and go through an identity verification where you’ll be asked about things like past addresses, and then you’re good to go. Once registered, you will enjoy benefits such as:

  • Daily credit monitoring
  • Automatic alerts when you apply for a new credit card or bank account
  • Online access to your Experian credit report, updated monthly
  • Identity theft insurance, which covers certain costs you may incur if you are the victim of fraud
  • Identity Theft Assistance Services

Is there a downside to signing up?

Not really. With a credit freeze, lenders and credit card companies cannot perform credit checks on you, which could delay you if you try to apply for a new loan or credit card. With IdentityWorks, you don’t get the same level of protection, but you also don’t have to worry about unlocking your credit every time you want to apply. Plus, you could have peace of mind knowing that there’s a service that monitors your financial activity for you.

Suppose a criminal tries to open a bank account using your details. Ideally, you will receive an alert from IdentityWorks as soon as this application is processed. At this point, you can contact the institution in question and report this activity as fraudulent. This can prevent the account in question from being opened, leaving you with fewer headaches.

In an ideal world, data breaches wouldn’t happen. But since Equifax has already suffered a big one, you might as well take advantage of the protection you are now entitled to.

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