Hardly anyone froze their credit after the Equifax breach

by Myles Ma
Hardly anyone froze their credit after the Equifax breach

Remember the big Equifax breach? From back in September? When criminals got access to the personal data of 143 million people? Including Social Security numbers? Does any of this ring a bell?

Remember when a bunch of experts tried to give everyone advice on how to deal with all this sensitive data being exposed? Do you remember repeated suggestions to freeze your credit?

It turns out a lot of people didn't listen, according to J.D. Power. Only 13% of people who heard of the breach have frozen their credit. Another 27% don't plan to freeze their credit. The good news is 45% are considering or are in the process of freezing their credit files.

The survey included responses from 1,322 U.S. residents and was fielded in October.


Why you should freeze your credit

Look, we can't tell anyone what to do. But criminals can do a lot of damage with the data stolen from Equifax: Take out loans, open credit card accounts, file fake tax returns or create fake IDs. A credit freeze can make life more difficult for a potential identity thief by blocking access to your credit report.

On the other hand, a credit freeze can slow you down too. You'll have to "thaw" your credit report anytime someone needs access to it, like when you want to take out a loan or get a credit card. Freezing and unfreezing your credit report also costs $5 to $10 a pop, though Equifax is waiving these fees through January. You'll still have to pay the other two major credit bureaus.

Still, freezing your credit isn't difficult and the peace of mind might be worth the cost. That's why 13% seems low, especially since 61% of respondents said they felt either at "great risk" or "somewhat at risk" a result of the breach. But sometimes, people just don't take all the precautions they should, said Bob Neuhaus, senior director of financial services for J.D. Power. It's possible there's too much other stuff in the news.

"Big news issues like this can get crowded out by other big stories and I think that's part of it," Neuhaus said.

Everyone is mad at everyone

Survey respondents aren't happy about the response to the breach. Sixty percent rated Equifax's response to the breach 1 or 2 out of five. People are unsatisfied with their banks too. A little over half (51%) said their banks were not at all or only slightly helpful with their advice after the breach. The government received blame as well. Sixty-one percent rated the federal response 1 or 2 out of 5.

"Consumers are unhappy with Equifax, who created the situation, the banks who contributed the data to Equifax and the government regulators who have the responsibility to make sure consumers are protected," Neuhaus said.

Equifax did not immediately respond to request for comment on the J.D. Power survey.

While those are tough grades, they also present an opportunity for credit bureaus, banks and regulators to help people understand the breach and take aggressive action to protect them, he said. But it will take some work to win people back: 57% of survey respondents said the breach had "seriously compromised their trust in the banking and credit card industries."

Does the breach bum you out? Check out our guide on surviving the Equifax breach.

Image: g-stockstudio