data breaches and identity protection
In the not too distant past, identity theft would have involved stealing someone’s mail or dumpster diving. That has all changed as we live in a digital world. With this change, all of our personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers and accounts numbers are stored digitally somewhere and hackers around the world are working around the clock to gain access to that information. The most recent breach to make headline news is the announcement on September 7th that Equifax (one of the three main credit reporting companies) had a breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other important personal information affecting 143 million people in the U.S. over the course of several months. To find out if you were personally affected and to sign up for free credit monitoring for a year you can go to . Though they are the latest and possibly largest, they are not alone. Others that have suffered data breaches include healthcare provider Anthem, eBay, JP Morgan Chase, Home Depot, Sony, Target, Citibank and others. With this new reality, there is a good chance that nearly all of us have had some personal information stolen.
Though completely preventing identity theft is beyond your control, here are some steps to take to mitigate any damage from personal information being stolen:
Monitor your credit report on a regular basis. You can run a free credit report through each of the credit providers, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax (ironically) at . You have to pay for the score but can see all of your credit accounts. You can run a report from each agency for free once a year and can run them all at once or run one at a time to allow monitoring more frequently.
You can request a fraud alert on your credit. Contact one of the credit reporting agencies and ask them to do so, they are then required to notify the other two.
Keep an eye on your accounts. Check your transactions in your bank accounts and credit cards to see if there is anything suspicious.
Consider a credit monitoring service. These services don’t really protect your information from being stolen, again, as that is nearly impossible. However, they do help monitor your information, look for suspicious activity and detect it quickly. If you are effected they will help you fix it and provide financial insurance. A couple of these services include (for marketing purposes the CEO has publicly released his Social Security number to show his confidence in the product, yet there are reports his identity has been stolen, so I don’t recommend doing that 😉), and (a discounted is offered through Costco for members).
If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other personal finance topics please contact me.
Advisory services offered through Arbor Point Advisors. Securities offered through Securities America Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Arbor Point and Securities America are separate companies. CA Insurance #0E88557