Securing your Finances – Credit Reports, Freezing, Fraud, etc.

Here is what I recommend in light of the Equifax debacle:

Plan your passwords – all of these sites will expect that you create a login, with passwords – a well formatted password will have upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters. Use a phrase to help you remember them.

  • WRITE down the web page, company name, login and password and store in a SAFE PLACE.
  • DO NOT STORE ON A Computer – best to store on paper.
  • You could do a password protected XLS, but if you lose the pasword to that no one can recover it.
  •  Assume your house can be broken into – where would you store this to be safe?

Example:    LLL3301!!mylifeSSN    If you change the last 3 letters for each site then you are being very secure

DO NOT USE the same password for any website – this makes an easy path for hackers to attack you everywhere.

First off – pull a credit report now – so you have a baseline. Use any of the 3 and TRACK which one:

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
Every 4 months you can get a free credit report using this site – start tracking these now.

Close all unnecessary credit cards. Anything you are not using or really need should be closed now.

Setup a Social Security account NOW – read this from the Social Security Administration – and pull a work report .

https://blog.ssa.gov/protecting-your-social-security/

This is a great two factor authentication – you login with a password and they will send you a pin to your phone or email to make sure this is you.

Pull a Social Security Statement and review your work history, payments, etc. this will give you a baseline as well.

If you are not doing a lot of things that require a credit report – moving around, buying a car, cell phone, apartment, etc.

Credit Freeze – you will have to white list with a PIN anyone checking your credit.

Depending on where you live you may have to pay $10 for this – KEEP your PIN SAFE like you would passwords. This is critical for administering a freeze.

Read more here: http://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide/

This must be done with every credit reporting organization

If you are moving around a lot and you are young you probably don’t want to deal with the hassle of freezing:

Fraud Alert – last only 90 days – can be done with just one agency – you give them your phone number and they will call you to check on the credit request. If they don’t and they credit report is not for something you did – they are held liable for all costs.

FREE – but you have to remember to renew it every 90 days with one credit company.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert   Free, but you must renew it every 90 days – I recommend at least a couple of years of this now.

WATCH and REVIEW very carefully your credit card records, bank accounts, etc – even the smallest of charges can indicate that someone has access to your accounts. ALWAYS question anything you don’t recognize. Use one card for internet activity. Another card for gas stations (yes they get stolen frequently), and another card as a backup. Always validate your bank account activity as well.

WATCH LAWSUITS – there are many that are standing up lawsuits against Equifax to force them to support identity theft for free for life, right now the assholes at Equifax are offering 1 year for free, from a company they own. I don’t recommend using this at this time. There are many reports that this site is jammed.

NEWS REPORTS – when the lists that were stolen hit the dark web we should be hearing about this – you should be vigilant. They have your most personal information, things you can’t change. You are ultimately responsible for your finances.

 
Identity Theft: 
If you have one keep using it. I have MyIDCare from Office of Personnel Management – I am not overly impressed with their ability – the send me notifications when someone checks my credit. They give me a list – nothing fancy – a free Fraud Alert would be better, but I have to renew it every 90 days – see above. I get this for free for another year, then I have to decide if I will keep using them – again, not impressed.
If you don’t have one and feel you need it there are many available for many different costs. LifeLock I hear is one of the best, but wow they cost a lot of $$ – read the reviews here: http://www.reviews.com/identity-theft-protection-services/
Resources:
For additional insights listen or read through this podcast – SecurityNow (https://twit.tv/shows/security-now) – I love this site – they always discuss security for everything in your digital life. Worth the investment of time, you may not understand everything they discuss, but anything you learn will help you defend yourself from those that want to steal from you.
There is no question Equifax has screwed us all over. While the political BS and lawsuits work their way out you need to protect yourself.
Lorri

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