In documents provided to the Senate Banking Committee recently, Equifax, for the first time disclosed that among the personal information stolen in its massive data breach was not only names Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses, but also email addresses.
While Equifax officials indicated that these email addresses were insignificant, they are far from insignificant in the hands of a scammer when coupled with the other information lost through Equifax’s negligence in failing to protect the personal data of 145.5 million Americans. The email addresses put the victims of the data breach in increased danger of “spear phishing” which is phishing emails specifically tailored to the victims of the data breach in a manner that they will appear trustworthy. People providing personal information in response to these emails put themselves in serious jeopardy of identity theft and people clicking on links in these apparently trustworthy emails run the risk of downloading serious malware such as ransomware.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself from many forms of identity theft is to put a credit freeze on your credit report at each of the three major credit reporting agencies.  However, the credit reporting agencies are recommending that you use a new invention of theirs which they call a “credit lock” instead of a credit freeze to protect your data.  They tout them as being more convenient and tie them into other services.  However, the truth is that you are better off with a credit freeze than with a credit lock.  Credit freezes are governed by laws that protect you, while credit locks are creations of the credit reporting agencies pursuant to contracts which they can change at will.  In addition, you may not desire the extra services you end up paying for at Experian which includes credit locks in security packages that can cost you more than a credit freeze while providing services you may not need.  Quite frankly, I don’t trust any of the credit reporting agencies to have our best interest as their primary motivation so I believe you are better off choosing to put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies rather than a credit lock.
To get started, it’s best to first understand the laws and fees governing credit freezes in your state. This link describes the credit freeze laws for each state.
To get the maximum protection from identity theft, it is important to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Here are links to each of them with instructions about how to get a credit freeze:
Once you have frozen your credit, be sure to keep the PIN and information on how to unfreeze your credit report in a safe place.
If you wish to use the free credit monitoring offered by Equifax, you can do so at
You also may wish to use the free credit monitoring services offered by Credit Karma. In return for the free credit monitoring services, you agree to receive credit card recommendations. For more information go to
As for protecting yourself from spear phishing, remember my motto, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone” and never click on any link in an email or text message regardless of how trustworthy it may appear unless you have absolutely confirmed that it is legitimate.
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