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Friday, September 22, 2017

Equifax Breach Highlights The Importance Of Credit Monitoring

It is more than a little bit ironic that a company that specializes in identity theft protection is the source of the second largest personal data hack in United States history. When Equifax announced that 143 million Americans had their personal information stolen via a weakness in its own website, it was like a punch in the gut.

If you are curious, you can use a tool on the Equifax website to check whether your information was stolen. It hardly matters though. This is just the world we are living in now, so it is important to be vigilant about identity theft.

Monitor Your Accounts

The most important thing you can do to prevent identity theft is to closely monitor your accounts. If you see a charge or withdrawal you don’t recognize, report it immediately. Fraudsters will often make a small purchase or two to see if anyone notices before doing bigger damage.

Don’t forget to keep a close eye on the accounts of those you have guardianship over, and the accounts of recently deceased persons. People who are not actively monitoring their own accounts can be an easy target if a trustee is not doing his or her job.

Guard Your Accounts

Don’t just monitor your accounts, actively guard them. The following tips can go a long way toward thwarting run-of-the-mill thieves.

Don’t share your personal information with anyone you don’t have to. For example, many dentists ask for your social security number. Unless you die tragically and they can only identify you by your dental records, they will never need this information! Even in such an unlikely scenario it is hard to imagine that a social security number would be important, so why give it out?

Don’t respond to or click on emails from your financial institutions or the government. Most of these emails are fake. If you think an email is real, look up the phone number for the organization that wants your information and give them a call to see what is going on. Don’t call the number listed in the email because it might be a fake one.

Don’t throw out papers with personal information on them without shredding them or using a black marker to cross out sensitive information.

Monitor Your Credit Score

The tips above can keep you safer, but they won’t stop all thieves. There are just too many of them using too sophisticated tactics. In order to know when and where you’ve been hit with identity theft, you need to be monitoring your credit score.

The big three reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax (and yes, you should keep using Equifax for the time being) – are all required by federal law to provide you with a free credit report once a year.

These reports will of course tell you what your credit score is, which is interesting to know and helpful if you are going to be taking out a loan. They will also provide you a list of all the debt you currently have, which will alert you if there is debt in your name that you don’t know about. You will also get a list of all the times someone has inquired about your credit score. Inquiries you don’t recognize are red flags because it could mean someone has stolen your identity and is in the process of applying for a loan under your name.

 


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