On September 7, 2017 Equifax, one of the big three credit bureaus, announced it was hacked sometime between May and July, stating nearly 143 million Americans were potentially exposed. While you might not know exactly who Equifax is, and you don’t remember providing your information, chances are you could be at risk for identity theft. This also means that many relocating employees are in the same situation and are potentially affected by this breach too, creating a new challenge for renters.
To understand how this can affect renters, we need to go back to basics. Credit scores are affected by spending habits and how loans, credit cards, and bills are paid off. If someone has and abuses someone else’s credit card, Social Security Number, or other sensitive information and racks up bills that are not paid, it can severely damage their credit score. Once an identity is stolen, it is often a complicated process to get back to normal, and victims are often left with poor credit through no fault of their own.
In many markets, rental applicants are required to undergo a credit check, and if they were one of the victims of this security breach, their rental application could be in jeopardy. The good news is there a few steps renters can take to help protect themselves and their information before applying. Here a few ways renters can help keep themselves protected.
Check if information has been compromised. Everyone should be checking with Equifax because Equifax held information from many types of transactions. The simplest way to check if information was comprised is by going to Equifax’s “Potential Impact” page to generate a damage report. Renters will need to enter their name and the last six digits of their Social Security Number.
Also, a wise habit is to periodically check recent charges to credit cards to be sure that each charge is recognized. This is made easy with online banking and mobile apps. Don’t forget to periodically check other accounts, including savings, retirement, and brokerage accounts. If there are unusual charges, contact the bank immediately. If a renter suspects that they have been a victim of identity theft (loans taken out in their name, new purchases, taxes filed before they actually filed them), contact the authorities and IRS right away, as this is a federal offense.
Protection. After running the report on Equifax, they provide the option to enroll in the protection service, “TrustedID Premier.” This protection will cover one year of free service before automatically enrolling in another year at full cost. This enrollment period is open until November 21, 2017. At all times, be sure that sources that request personal information such a Social Security number are verified. Periodically change passwords and PIN numbers and never use the same login username and password on multiple sites, as this gives the potential hacker, even more control over personal property.
Permanent prevention. If a renter believes that their identity has been compromised, it may be worthwhile to pay for a professional credit monitoring service. They can also freeze their credit, but doing so will delay any transaction in which a credit report must be produced, such as completing a rental application. Fees will also apply to freezing credit. Finally, setting alerts to notify of purchase attempts using credit cards is a valuable tool for protection.
Unfortunately, this security breach adds another layer onto a complex process. Renting a property requires trust and teamwork, no matter the location. This security breach is a reminder that renters need as much help as they can get when exploring a new market. Dealing with challenges like this are easier to overcome with a local expert on the renter’s side equipped with tools and options on how to find the right place to call home.
Learn more about Rental Assistance at Dwellworks!
To read the specific details of the security breach, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
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