I returned from vacation to learn that my personal information may have been hacked via Equifax, one of the three biggest credit reporting agencies. I’ve infrequently reviewed the “free credit reports” available via the three companies, which a prudent consumer would rotate and obtain every four months (once learned I had a 20 year old Macy’s account still active). I’d usually get a report from all three companies at the same time and every couple of years.

The Equifax data hack, which could have affected 140 million+ consumers, is a wake up call to us all.

Here’s my quick pearl list to protect your credit report and personal identity post-Equifax:

1. Read Ron Lieber’s “Equifax’s Instructions Are Confusing. Here’s What to Do Now.” (NY Times). This is the most straight-forward summary I’ve seen. Based on this, I will NOT sign up for the free Equifax service post-hack, which strips away legal rights for arbitration.

2. I created a security freeze on on my credit reports with the three big credit report agencies (and a 4th one below). Each state has various costs to freeze, temporarily unfreeze, or permanently unfreeze your credit. I live in a state which is FREE to freeze and costs $5 to “lift” (temporarily unfreeze). I’ve seen the costs vary even for my state via the agencies online links. (Transunion is most web friendly) If you are a consumer advocate, now is the time to lobby your state legislators to address these fees and especially if they are higher than other states.

Here’s a quick run-down of how I initiated credit report security freezes this morning:

A. Equifax – relatively easy to do. You need your current information. Created immediate 10 digit PIN you need to unfreeze (I took a screenshot and wrote down).

B. Experian – relatively easy to do. They will ask you about old account details (5 multiple choice questions, “What is the last 4 digits of a phone number (or a primary checking account) … Which is a street number of an old address?” ) Creates 10 digit PIN.

C. Transunion – straightforward. Need to create an account and then select freeze (You may need to create an account, log out, then log back in). You then get to pick your own 6 digit PIN.

D. Innovis – straightforward but they will send you a letter once you sign up.

3. Obtain a free credit report every four months at annualcreditreport.com. Here, you simply set up a mobile phone / desktop calendar alert every 4 months to obtain a credit report from Equifax (September 1), Experian (January 1 ), TransUnion (May 1). Do this on the same day you change the air filter in your heating system (Air filters should actually be changed every 3 months!). In any event, a calendar alert should be a good reminder to review your credit report for FREE (federal law) every few months.

My NEW calendar Alerts:

I will add more links as this story evolves. Please like, share and comment below!