If you haven’t frozen your credit after that huge Equifax data breach, now’s the time to do it.
Think back to that huge Equifax data breach this past fall, which exposed the personal information of more than 145 million Americans -- everything from Social Security numbers to names, birth dates and more were handed over to hackers.
Our Simply Money advice then was for you to place a security freeze on your credit with the three big bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.
To try to soothe angry consumers, Equifax offered to waive its freeze fee. That offer expires Wednesday.
But there’s even more reason to freeze your credit -- tax season opened Monday, and having a security freeze eliminates one popular way for fraudsters to file a fake return in your name to steal the refund.
The IRS admits that more than 700,000 taxpayer accounts have been improperly accessed or targeted by thieves through its online Get Transcript site. But the IRS still allows people to get transcripts online if they can provide certain pieces of information, including Social Security number, birth date, and mailing address (the very information stolen in that Equifax data breach).
So here’s how a security freeze protects you:
The IRS uses Experian to ask those security questions and create online IRS accounts.
But if you’ve frozen your credit through Experian, those security questions are turned off, and the person trying to create the account will have to provide the special “freeze PIN” you got when you applied for that credit freeze.
The Simply Money point: Freezing your credit could help protect you from tax fraud, as well as thieves opening any accounts in your name.