Protect Yourself against Identity Theft | M. Griffith Investment Services, Inc.

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Protect Yourself against Identity Theft

Protect Yourself against Identity Theft

Protect Yourself against Identity Theft

You may have never used Equifax yourself – or even heard of it – but the credit reporting agency recently said that 143 million people could be affected by a recent data breach in which cybercriminals stole information from Equifax including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver's licenses.

Additionally, credit card numbers for about 209,000 people were exposed, as was "personal identifying information" on roughly 182,000 customers involved in credit report disputes.

Equifax is one of three nationwide credit-reporting companies that track and rate the financial history of U.S. consumers. It gets its data – without you even knowing – from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders.

Equifax will not be contacting everyone who was affected, but will send direct mail notices to those whose credit card numbers or dispute records were accessed. Whether or not your confidential information was part of this Equifax data breach or not, there are some simple yet important precautions that you can take.

First, it's important to review your credit report periodically. Check to make sure that all the information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity. You may get one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once a year. To do so, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. One strategy that may make sense is to request a new credit report from a different bureau every four months. This way, you can continually review an up-to-date credit report rather than reviewing all three now and then having to wait a full year to receive another free report.  

Unfortunately, your credit report does not contain your credit score. Fortunately, there are providers that offer your credit score for free. One credit score provider is called Credit Karma (www.creditkarma.com and there is also an app). Credit Karma will provide you with your credit score and alert you every time your score changes. They also will monitor your Transunion credit report and alert you of all changes. Monitoring changes in both your credit score and credit report is highly recommended because any substantial changes could alert you of fraudulent activity.

To help cushion the blow of this massive security breach, Equifax is offering consumers one year of free credit monitoring through its TrustedID service. You can find more information about this credit monitoring service at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. This service looks like a “can’t hurt to do it” option.

If you want to be super cautious, you can request a security freeze directly from all three of the credit bureaus for a fee (usually $10 for each). This is the most robust protection that consumers can access. A security freeze prevents any new lines of credit from being issued as long as the lender checks with one of the credit bureaus. If you want to remove the freeze, say if you want to open a new credit card or establish a new bank/investment account, you can temporarily lift, or “thaw,” the freeze for another additional fee (usually under $10). You will need to reach out to each bureau directly to put a freeze on your credit if you choose this option.       

Finally, it is important to do the simple things. Change your online passwords, don’t use the same password for multiple websites, monitor your financial statements, do not provide sensitive personal information over the phone, etc. These simple steps are something that you can do yourself, to help protect your personal information in this world of ever changing technology.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss any of these thoughts in further detail, please contact your M. Griffith advisor.