Place a credit freeze on your files
A credit freeze, also called a security freeze, prevents a credit reporting agency from releasing your credit report to others, without affecting your credit score. A credit freeze is perhaps the most effective way of stopping identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name. Placing a credit freeze with each of the three major agencies, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian, offers the most protection. Each freeze remains until you lift or remove it. Under Federal law and Massachusetts law you cannot be charged to place, lift, or remove a credit freeze.
A credit freeze also stops businesses from checking your credit, so you may need to temporarily lift your credit freeze before:
- Applying for any type of loan, mortgage, or credit card
- Applying for insurance
- Switching or starting a new utility service or phone line, including a cell phone
- Applying for a job
- Applying to rent an apartment
Check your credit report
All U.S. consumers can now get six free Equifax credit reports per year through 2026 by visiting the Equifax website or by calling 1-866-349-5191. That’s in addition to the one free Equifax report (plus your Experian and TransUnion reports) you can get at AnnualCreditReport.com. Beware of other websites that use the offer of a “free” credit report to sign you up for paid services.
Guard yourself against identity theft
If you see any activity on your existing financial accounts, new loans, or credit cards that you don't recognize, you may be the victim of identity theft. You should deal with identity theft as soon as possible. You can visit IdentityTheft.gov for a step-by-step guide of how to protect yourself.
File your taxes early
Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your social security number to get a tax refund or a job. You should respond right away to any letters from the IRS. You should also not believe anyone who calls you saying that they are the IRS and you will be arrested for unpaid taxes, even if they have part or all of your social security number, or that you need to pay your taxes using a gift card or prepaid debit card.
File a claim for benefits
On July 22, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, other states, and private class action attorneys announced a settlement with Equifax. Even though the Attorney General's Lawsuit against Equifax continues, you may still be eligible for benefits under the settlement. Find out more information here.