In wake of Equifax breach, credit experts offer several tips for consumers to protect themselves
Monica Kaiser and her husband are part of the 15 million Americans every year whose identities are stolen.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As the fallout continues from the recent data breach at the Equifax consumer credit reporting agency, experts are offering several tips for consumers to protect themselves.
Consumers like Monica Kaiser. Kaiser had her eyes on her dream home.
"It was an older house, but the whole inside had been redone," Kaiser said. "We put a real nice pool in after we bought it, and usually every Sunday is pool day."
But that home nearly slipped out of her fingers because of a $750 debt -- a debt that wasn't hers.
"I got a hit on my credit report that dropped my score 70 points," Kaiser said. "Someone in Michigan was using my previously married name, Monica."
That debt -- and the subsequent damage to her credit score -- brought her mortgage to a grinding halt, on the home she was already renting in New Albany.
"They were using that name and my social security number to get utilities in their name," Kaiser said.
"It was very rough...very stressful," Kaiser said.
Kaiser and her husband are part of the 15 million Americans every year whose identities are stolen.
"I'm like, 'How could this be? I've never lived in Michigan in my life!'" Kaiser said.
The Kaisers, like so many others, had no idea who to blame. In the last few years, financial institutions like Chase Bank and Wells Fargo, stores like Target and Home Depot, and major health insurers like Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield have all fallen victim to hackers.
With this recent breach involving Equifax, the information for nearly half the American population has been compromised.
Credit expert Karen Scheuerman says defense is the best offense. Scheuerman is part owner of A+ Credit Repair in Louisville.
"The first thing I would recommend is putting a freeze on your credit with all three bureaus," Scheuerman said.
Freezing your credit with Equifax, Experian and Transunion stops new accounts from opening.
She also recommends signing up for a credit monitoring service like Credit Karma to make sure there are no fraudulent accounts in your name.
You can check online to see if you're impacted by the Equifax breach, but Scheuerman says not to take the Equifax credit protection.
"If you do that, you will probably give up your right to sue them in the future, if there's an issue they don't correct," Scheuerman said.
Sheuerman says if there's an error on your credit, file a police report, then contact the credit bureaus and the company saying you owe a debt. If they refuse to fix it, hire an advocate, an attorney or credit repair company to fight for you.
Kaiser won her last battle with Equifax.
"It took a year, but they eventually admitted they were wrong and we settled out of court," Kaiser said. "The first thing I did...was went to their website to see if I got compromised again, and sure enough..."
Now she says she can't believe Round Two may be beginning.
"So I'm just like, 'Here we go again,'" Kaiser said.
A class action lawsuit was filed Friday against Equifax.
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