Consumer Reports: Equifax data breach


Many adults in the U.S. have been affected by the Equifax data breach.

If your personal information was compromised, Consumer Reports advises that the simplest move is to put a fraud alert in place, warning prospective lenders that your information has been compromised.

"A fraud alert requires a lender to take reasonable, extra steps, to confirm that the person trying to open a new credit account, is in fact you," Consumer Reports Money Editor Margot Gilman said.

Activating a standard fraud alert is free; just contact any one of the three big credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion -- who then pass it on to the other two.

"Typically, a fraud alert lasts 90 days. Which means you have to re-up every three months," Gilman said. "But on the plus side, you're entitled to a free credit report every time you do."

A stronger option is a credit freeze -- which needs to be requested from each of the three major credit bureaus. It may involve a fee, but once in place, a freeze is the single, most effective way to protect against credit fraud.

However, there is a downside.

Afreeze can also shut out companies you want to do business with and you will likely be charged a fee to temporarily lift the freeze.

Equafix will likely lift those charges after the start of the year.

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