Most Americans Still Don’t Check Their Credit Report (But They Should)
It’s now been nearly six months since the massive Equifax hack that affected an estimated 143 million people and exposed their credit data. As a result of this breach, experts warned consumers against the increased potential for identity fraud and the ability for hackers to open unauthorized credit accounts in their name. Some even advised that customers freeze their credit reports in order to help prevent such acts. However, despite that outcry, a new study finds that half of Americans haven’t checked their credit report in the past six months.
CNN Money reports that a recent CreditCards.com survey discovered just how few consumers regularly check their credit report. While keeping up to date with your credit should be a regular habit, the need for review was significantly raised following the aforementioned Equifax breach. As CreditCard.com’s senior analyst Matt Shulz explained, “The bad guys basically got everything they would need to pretend to be you through this breach. They got the keys to the kingdom.”
Schultz also warns that even those who have recently checked their credit need to remain vigilant. “The bad guys can be pretty patient. Once your information is out there, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. People need to adjust their financial routine accordingly,” he said. Thankfully there are now several ways consumers can check their credit and protect themselves.
First individuals can request a free copy of their credit reports from the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once per year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Additionally, as mentioned, consumers can request to have their credit reports frozen so that creditors can not access them. Although the breach affected Equifax, it’s important to note that the info gained from the hack could be used to open accounts that utilize other credit bureaus. Therefore it’s important to freeze all three reports, which will typically cost you a few dollars depending on which state you live in. Should you need to apply for new credit down the line, you can also request to unfreeze or temporarily thaw your reports as well.
Beyond the potential for fraud, a number of other errors can appear on your credit reports that in turn hurt your credit scores. These errors can be disputed and corrected, but only if you know they’re there. In other words, don’t be like the 50% of Americans who don’t check their credit reports — review your reports ASAP and take steps to protect yourself against the many terrors unleashed with the Equifax hack six months ago.