Good afternoon everyone. If you are an existing, former, or potential future T-Mobile customer, you may have heard about the massive data breach affecting ~53 million customers. Depending on your current relationship with T-Mobile, your name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, telephone number, and mobile device information may have been stolen by hackers. After your data is stolen in a data breach, there is really nothing you can do to get that information back (it is out in the universe forever), but you can protect yourself and your finances by freezing your 3 credit reports with Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (read this post on steps to freeze your credit reports). The only thing T-Mobile has said so far is that “T-Mobile’s response includes offering two years of free identity-theft protection software to customers whose data was compromised.”
Here is an analogy to describe how freezing your credit reports differs from having credit monitoring / identity-theft protection. By default, your credit reports are open and accessible to any financial company that you have given access to. I equate this to leaving the front door of your house open and unlocked. If you have a credit monitoring service, it is like having a sophisticated security system in your house that will alert you whenever someone comes in your front door. The credit monitoring service won’t protect your information, it will only alert you when your information is accessed. By comparison, freezing your credit report is equivalent to closing and locking your front door.
Thanks to current laws, you can freely and easily freeze your credit reports with the 3 credit bureaus. In addition, you can temporarily or permanently unfreeze your credit reports whenever you want. Unfreezing your credit reports is also free, but the process can take up to 1 hour (read this post on steps to temporarily or permanently unfreeze your credit reports).
Based on this information, your credit reports should always be frozen until you plan on applying for credit (new credit card, mortgage, car loan, etc). At that point, you can go through the steps to temporarily unfreeze your credit report for a set period of time. When I apply for a new credit card, I will temporarily unfreeze my credit reports for a few days, wait an hour or so, and then apply for a credit card. After those few days have passed, the credit reports will automatically freeze. This is a simple way to keep your credit report frozen while also having access to them when you need to.
If you have any questions about freezing or unfreezing your credit reports, please leave a comment below. Have a great day everyone!