If you haven’t already heard, then allow me to be the bearer of bad news. Health care giant Anthem, just got hacked…big time. Over 80,000,000 (count the zeros) current AND past customers are at risk. And this isn’t your run of the mill hack. This is the holy grail of a hack. Victims, which by the way could include yours truly, face a lifetime of risk.
Yes, since the data breach includes social security numbers and dates of birth, criminals can open credit in your name anytime they want. If they had simply stolen your debit card or credit card number, then you would just get a new card. But in this instance, they stole the skeleton key to your credit. Bad people can apply for credit in your name, whenever they want, for as long as you’re alive.
Pete’s Step-By-Step Guide to Freezing Your Credit
Am I being a bit of an alarmist? Not really. What I’ve just described is 1,000 times worse than the Target and Home Depot breaches combined. Your social security number doesn’t change. Your date of birth doesn’t change. Those are the two primary means of creating a gateway to your credit.
I gotta be honest, I’m more than concerned. I’ve decided to freeze my credit. Yep, you can freeze your credit and prevent ne’er do wells from accessing your credit. It’s simple. You need to contact each of the three credit bureaus, and ask them to freeze your credit. In doing so, you will restrict access to your credit for anyone, including yourself, until you lift the freeze.
I would not waste anytime here. Freezing your credit will not affect your current credit lines. It simply prevents new credit from being established. If you are are a current or past customer of Anthem, it is my strong recommendation that you do it as soon as humanly possible.
Here are five additional ways to avoid identity theft. It’s a must read.
Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:
- Equifax — 1-800-685-1111 or online
- Experian —1‑888‑397‑3742 or online
- TransUnion — 1‑800‑680‑7289 or online
For more information and some FAQs, checkout the info here at the FTC website.
Still worried about protecting your identity? Sign up for our free newsletter at the top of this page and we’ll send you more best practices for protecting yourself.
Update (1:49pm est 2/6/15) *****The Anthem data breach may have just gotten a lot worse.
Update (8:00am est 2/715) ****How to proceed after Turbo Tax news
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.
38 thoughts on “Anthem data breach victims should strongly consider freezing their credit”
So do you think Credit Monitoring Service/Identify Theft Protection from Experian is a good enough or do you really recommend freezing? I got some letter in the mail from French Lick about a recent hack but they were good enough to include a year subscription to Experian and this includes new lines of credit monitoring. I read your article, it is scary, but is it a real danger where 80 mil people need to freeze their credit?
credit freeze prevents fraud, credit monitoring alerts you after it has already happened. Would you rather not have a mess, or get a call that there is a mess that you have to clean up?
I called Equifax and the automated system put a 90 day alert on my credit, and they said they were required to alert the other 2 agencies. Should I still call the other 2 agencies?
Yes, contact all agencies.
Here’s the automated numbers for Equifax (800-349-9960) & Transunion (888-909-8872). These will allow you to add a freeze via the phone. I couldn’t get the numbers listed here to work for a freeze (only worked for holds & alerts).
Experian was easy to use online.
Experian charges $10 for this service.
Depends upon your state. In some, including mine, it’s free.
If they have your social and DOB can’t they just unfreeze your credit?
You establish a PIN, when you freeze it.
Unless equifax freezes on you while you’re in the system and doesn’t give you your pin. I’m in hell right now figuring out what happened!
ARRRH…. same thing just happened to me. GREAT.
I thought the same thing happened to me when I did it online. But, I was able to confirm, using the numbers I provided in the comments here, that the freeze went through.
So, I can only assume Equifax mails you the PIN you need.
Thank you, Dustin!
Equifax is the worst. I went online to submit a credit freeze and it kicked me out of the system. I went back and it said I already have a freeze in place, but I never received my pin. Now I’m in a crazy circle trying to find the right phone number to call to actually speak to a rep and I can’t get through to anyone. HELP!
Same thing happened to me! I finally reached a live person at 1-888-298-0045 and was told that the PIN would be mailed to me in 3-5 days.
My gosh, me too! I’ll try the 0045 number on Monday.
Equifax won’t let me place a freeze on my minor children’s accounts, Experian wants me to pay for it and send in a bunch more documentation, and TransUnion says that according to Federal Law, they can’t create a credit freeze on a minor. Advice? Is it really necessary?
Hi Pete, I’m a college student and currently on loans from Uncle Sam. Will freezing my credit prohibit or interfere with receiving loans?
No, it will be a little more difficult because you will need to speak with the credit bureaus identifying that you really are who you say you are and provide the pin that you will receive. The credit bureaus are on high alert right now so extra precautions are in place.
So, freezing a minor’s credit is a bit more difficult, given that most don’t have credit bureau reports yet. Any advice on this?
I did discover instructions through the Experian process how to submit to freeze a minor’s credit (which it’s a lot and involves mailing stuff in), but Equifax phone system simply said there wasn’t a file and thus couldn’t freeze it. Experian mentioned the same thing–i.e., they could only freeze a file if they had been tracking the minor’s credit.
Any chance you’d be up for writing a blog post about what to do in the case of kids?
Would love to hear how to protect my kids; I’m a bit nervous about sending off copies of my own Social Security card, Drivers License along with their birth certificates and Social Security cards in the mail.
I am currently in the process of buying a home. How would freezing my credit affect this process?
You should contact your mortgage lender and ask. I work for a mortgage company and we would just question why a freeze was placed on the account and note the file. I know that once an initial report is ran many lenders run another credit check right before closing just to make sure you have not opened additional credit. It’s best just to check with your loan originator.
If young children are also listed under insurance, should a freeze also be placed in their names?
Here you go, Susan! https://petetheplanner.com/the-ins-and-outs-of-freezing-your-kids-credit/#sthash.VLVsSpY0.dpbs
If you freeze your account will you be able to un-freeze it at anytime lets say if you want to buy a house? And will it affect your credit scores at all?
It does not affect your credit score negatively, and you can unfreeze it anytime.
Pete the Planner, I would really love to hear you weigh in about how to protect minors whose data may have been compromised.
Here you go! https://petetheplanner.com/the-ins-and-outs-of-freezing-your-kids-credit/#sthash.VLVsSpY0.dpbs
What if you have Lifelock ?
Is that enough protection ?
In my opinion, no. Freezing your credit does a better job than Lifelock possibly could, on new fraudulent credit.
How does it stop people from getting other types of loans that don’t use the major credit companies?
I put a freeze on my credit; does my wife also need to do so?
Experian and Trans Union were easy. Equifax not so much. The system claims I have a credit freeze in place but I’ve never done this before. I have tried several phone numbers and keep ending up on the automated system. Is there a trick or number you can provide? Thanks.
My daughter tried to place a credit freeze with all three bureaus. However, Transunion told her that since she doesn’t have an account they cannot freeze it. This concerns me because it leaves the Transunion ‘arena’ wide open for these low-life’s to create problems for her before she even has a chance to establish credit. How can I get Transunion to accommodate her in freezing her account?