Ways to Keep your Identity Safe

The Equifax data breach and other security risks have pretty much forced us consumers to take the sole guardian for ourselves in securing our most sensitive information. It has always been a good idea to monitor your finances, credit reports and other personal information because of identity theft and the hassle it is. The Equifax breach signifies a new era in which us consumers can no longer rely on institutions to protect us. It’s time for us consumers to take charge and keep our information safe ourselves.

Fraud alerts and Credit freezes can be useful to keeping personal information from getting into the wrong hands.

Fraud Alerts

Notes that are added to all three of your credit reports to let future lenders know they NEED to contact you to verify your identity before approving ANY credit. Example would be if you were to apply for a new credit card, the card issuer would have to give you a call asking you additional questions to confirm your identity. Fraud alerts are very simple to do you need to contact one of the credit reporting bureaus to request them. This is free and will stay on your credit reports for 90 days.

Credit Freezes

Credit Freezes however completely lock down your credit for an extended period of time. You can still check your credit reports and scored while frozen, lenders, utility providers or anyone else will not be able to pull your credit. If you wish to apply for credit cards, loans or another type of account you can temporarily or permanently freeze your credit. Also credit freezes do not last forever, although most states keep your credit frozen until you remove the freeze there are a number of states that only keep your reports frozen for seven years.

Freezing your credit takes more work than fraud alerts, you have to contact all three of the credit bureaus (one credit bureau will not contact the others for you.) It may cost you some money depending on your state of residency, and being that you have to contact all three bureaus it could become quite expensive. Currently Equifax credit freezes are free though Jan 31, 2018. If you are a victim of identity theft, and you have a identity theft report, you can freeze all three of your credit reports for free in many states.

Side note about a credit freeze is that while it doesn’t prevent you from continuing to use the credit accounts you already have, you will have to “thaw out” your reports whenever you plan to apply for a new credit account or someone needs to check your credit. You can either temporarily lift the freeze for a set amount of time or permanently lift the freeze. Keep in mind that if you choose the former, you’ll be required to pay a fee to each credit bureau in order have the freeze added back to your credit reports. Additionally, just like when you place a freeze, you’re required to alert all three of the bureaus of the temporary or permanent lift.

Falling victim with freezes and alerts in place

Although credit freezes are very effective and can prevent new accounts from being opened, they unfortunately cannot stop other types of identity theft such as tax or medical identity theft. Abuse of existing accounts is far more common than opening of new accounts under someone else’s identity, which is why you NEED to monitor your credit card statements every month and report any unfamiliar transactions.

Fraud alerts don’t exactly stop the theft of your identity they are only designed to bring attention to any new credit application. However, because there are no laws formally enforcing fraud alert rules, some creditors responding to your fraud alerts might not be rigorous enough when vetting your identity, if they even contact you at all. This means that new credit accounts can be opened in your name even if you have a fraud alert in place.

Basically, you are the sole protector of your identity. Always be aware and make sure you are monitoring your credit and financial accounts as frequently as possible so you can pick up on errors as soon as they happen. In addition to monitoring your credit and financial accounts you need to look out for other types of identity theft. Make sure to file your taxes as early as possible to avoid the chances of tax identify theft. To prevent medical identity theft, read any explanation of benefits you receive and confirm the services noted there are accurate. Report any medical services you did not receive to your insurance carrier. When it comes to personal information, you’ll want to make sure you store important documents properly and limit the information you share on social media as you could be revealing your own identity online. You should also be changing your account passwords every couple of months for security purposes.

Hoping this information is helpful, Hopmeier Evans Gage Agency always looks out for our customers!

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