Victim of Recent T-Mobile Data Breach? Freeze your 3 Credit Reports Right Away

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.”

Image source: https://www.pymnts.com/news/security-and-risk/2021/t-mobile-says-cyberattack-was-worse-than-previously-known/

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!

16 thoughts on “Victim of Recent T-Mobile Data Breach? Freeze your 3 Credit Reports Right Away

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Mike, that is a great question. For some of the credit bureaus, you need to create a free account first and then you can freeze and unfreeze your credit report.

      You want to make your credit report hard to access, so that hackers will give up and go after an easier victim. It’s kind of like outrunning a bear. You don’t need to be the fastest person, you just need to be faster than the slowest person.

      Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Nathan, yes, there are many free credit monitoring services (like Credit Karma) that do the same thing as the paid credit monitoring service. You can also sign up for Credit Sesame and Chase Credit Journey. My info has been stolen in various data breaches over the years so I also have free credit monitor with the 3 credit bureaus too. Whenever I have a hard inquiry on my credit report, I usually get 3-4 email alerts right away.

      Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi April, if you are a current or former T-Mobile customer, you should assume your data is compromised. I’m sure T-Mobile will reach out to affected customers at some point, but until then, you should freeze your credit reports just to be safe.

      Reply
  1. W.Ros

    Can we get links to the links to create free accounts for the credit bureaus so we can freeze our accounts? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Ryan, ya, that sounds right. I think you may have answered one of the verification questions incorrectly and they want to verify your identity over the phone. It shouldn’t take too long to call.

      Reply
  2. harv

    isn’t it sufficient to place a fraud alert on an account (rather than a freeze)? With a fraud alert they won’t grant credit without speaking with you on a phone number you provide when the fraud alert is entered. (Fraud alerts are only good for one year but can be renewed). I tried freezing and unfreezing
    for a while but I repeatedly had difficulties being told I could not unfreeze online and I had to call in and then when you call in they keep saying please do this online. It was very frustrating.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Harv, that is a great question. I’ve never set up a fraud alert on my credit report, so I’m not very familiar with the process. I’m sorry you had issues freezing and unfreezing your credit reports. If it has been a few years, I believe the process has improved.

      Reply
      1. Marty

        I’ll echo what Harv said. I was the victim of 3 separate identify theft incidents. The first was pretty easy to resolve and was before you could freeze reports etc. The last two were doozies. Ultimately, I didn’t pay anything out of pocket, but it was a pain. Somehow opening up store credit cards in person and spending the total limit in one purchase didn’t raise any suspicion, but, I go to Walgreens and get candy and somehow get a fraud alert (separate incidents, obviously).

        That being said, I’ve now put fraud alerts on my credit file that say to call and speak to me directly as I’ve been a victim of identity theft. They always call. The difference is, if I apply for a card, it’ll automatically go into a verification state (because they have to call), so no instant approvals anymore. I suspect if your account was just unfrozen, you’d still have the ability to get an instant approval because you wouldn’t have the “alert” on your file.

        The alert is nice as they have to call although I have heard that it’s just a courtesy that they are supposed to follow. In my experience though, every card I’ve applied for (with the fraud alert on), they’ve ALWAYS called first and then manually verified me and info, and I’ve been approved. I’ve never gone through the freeze/unfreeze portion.

        Reply
        1. Grant Post author

          Hi Marty, I’m sorry you have gone through 3 identity theft incidents, that sounds like a nightmare. Thank you for explaining how the security alert works. I guess that is a sufficient way to prevent new accounts from being opened without your consent. Have you ever been called about a new account you did not apply for?

          Reply
          1. Marty

            No worries Grant! Fortunately, no. Once I had the credit alert, that has stopped anything else. Now, I will say, I’ll think it’s partially just “luck” because after 3 “thefts”, my information is definitely out there. So, I would say that I am sure I’ll have an attempt or two down the line, but theoretically they *should* contact me first before opening any new lines of credit. I also subscribe to the credit karma’s (as well as all the corporate free years of monitoring services to be on the safe side) and nothing new has popped up. But, with a fairly common last name, I’m pretty sure my number will come up again … just hopefully the fraud alert will block it.

            I should also note that I *believe* once you apply for a fraud alert, you stop getting mail solicitations for new credit card offers. I’ve noticed that I haven’t received any since applying. I don’t churn from mail offers (if I’m going to apply, I’ll do an affiliate link online), so I can’t say that I’ve been targeted by mail for any special offers, but I do believe that’s one of the con’s of the alert being added as well — so something to think about.

          2. Grant Post author

            Hi Marty, I’m glad you haven’t had any rogue attempts. I think you are right about not getting any of the pre-approved offers in the mail. 99% of the time they are junk, so you are not missing much.

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