It may seem as though the headlines are coming at us constantly - breach after breach. The most recent, brought to you by Equifax, exposed the information of nearly half the population of the United States. It’s likely that you, or someone that you know, will have their personal information in the hackers’ hands.
The good news is, knowledge is power and there are ways to protect yourself going forward.
CHECK YOUR SPENDING ACCOUNTS FOR SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY
Keep an eye on your transactions by monitoring your bank and credit card statements. Better yet, if you are a client of Gilbert & Cook, you can utilize your Abundant Living website to monitor all of your transactions and set up alerts for suspicious spending behaviors, all in one convenient location.
ENROLL IN A CREDIT MONITORING SERVICE OR FRAUD ALERT PROGRAM
Credit monitoring services will track your personal information to determine if it’s been used in a way that is suspicious or out of the ordinary, and alert you to the behavior. Credit monitoring does not stop a thief from opening a new account in your name. Instead, they alert you of a potential fraud after the fact.
If you have been a victim of fraudulent activity, a Fraud Alert can be placed on your account and will require a business to verify your identity before issuing any new credit. There are different types of Fraud Alerts, lasting from 90 Days to 7 Years. Note: If you set up a Fraud Alert through any of the major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) it will prompt them to coordinate with each other make sure your records are protected across all companies. A fraud alert can be placed on your account and will provide more protection to you than credit monitoring, but does not provide you with the full security of a Security Freeze.
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT
Unlike Credit Monitoring, or Fraud Alerts, freezing your credit (also known as a Security Freeze) stops identity theft from happening rather than alerting you to fraud after it has occurred. A Security Freeze gives you complete control of your credit file and is the best way to protect your credit and identity.
A Security Freeze will lock your credit file at each bureau with a special PIN that is private to you. Freezing your credit with a PIN will require creditors to verify your identity before they can get a copy of your credit report and can stop someone from opening a new credit account in your name.
Security Freezes do not lock down your open accounts or affect your credit score, and they can be removed and re-frozen if needed. There is a cost to freezing your credit (up to $10 per credit reporting company) and another cost to have it removed. You can freeze your credit immediately at the big three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
How to do it:
To set up a security freeze, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus individually. This process can be done online or over the phone with a series of personal questions to confirm your identity. (Note: Given the severity of the recent security breach, there may be a delay with the influx of requests at the credit bureaus.)
Equifax: 866-349-5191 / www.freeze.equifax.com
Experian: 888- 397-3742 / www.experian.com/freeze
TransUnion: 888-909-8872 / www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze
If a situation occurs and you need a new line of credit, you can lift your freeze by simply contacting the bureau used by the lender and provide your PIN.
As always, please contact your Gilbert & Cook team if you have any questions or concerns regarding your financial situation.