Simple Steps I Take to Protect My Credit and Identity
This week there was an article on CNN that the Equifax hack could be worse than we thought. Here are the simple steps that I use to protect my identity and credit:
- Open all mail. If someone opened a fraudulent account in your name, you might start to get mail that makes absolutely no sense to you. Don’t just chuck stuff that looks like junk mail.
- I use two factor authentication for all financial account logins.
- I use a password manager. In my case, Dashlane, although there are others. This ensures that my passwords are cryptic but that I don’t have to remember them.
- I have active duty military alerts on all of my credit reports with all of the credit agencies.
- I check my credit report every four months, checking one from each of the three credit agencies. Some people check all of them at the same time once a year, but I think that by staggering them and doing one every four months it is more likely I’ll pick up something fishy sooner rather than later. I check for mistakes and accounts I don’t recognize. Both could be a sign of identity theft. Just go to AnnualCreditReports.com to get your free credit reports.
- Every day I check the transactions of my two credit cards. Yes, every..single…day.
- My wife and I have alerts set up so that we get notified whenever a transaction occurs without a credit card being present. Contact your credit card companies to get this set up. You can usually set dollar thresholds above which you want to be notified, or you can get notified about all transactions.
- Based on the Equifax issue and others, we have reported to the IRS that we are potential victims of identity theft. This means that we cannot file our taxes without a special pin that is mailed to us each year. This prevents others from fraudulently filing taxes in our name and stealing a fraudulent tax refund.
There are other steps you could consider taking that I have not personally adopted. For example, instead of an active duty alert you could place a freeze on your credit accounts. This prevents anyone (including you) from getting a credit card or loan in your name. It will also prevent you from doing things that require a credit check, like switching cell phone carriers or renting a house/apartment. Since we are “Still In” the military, I decided to go with the active duty alert instead of the freeze due to the lower amount of hassle when we have to PCS in the future. Here’s a good post that explains the difference between the two options.
Websites like CreditKarma offer free, real-time credit monitoring. In the past I used their services, but don’t anymore. I honestly don’t remember why I turned it off, but I may consider signing up again now that I think of it.
Cyber incidents and identity theft are just par for the course nowadays and the price you pay for on-line convenience. Make sure you set up your own plan to limit the chances you’ll be personally affected by identity theft or cyber crime.