We assume you have heard about the Equifax security breach announced on September 8, but the question is - have you taken action to protect yourself?
You need to assume your information is public, and quite possibly in the hands of bad people. There is no one-size-fits-all regimen of what you should do, but a key point here is “doing nothing” shouldn’t be an option. We are now in a time when you must secure your own personal information.
Here are some of the most frequently cited actions we’ve seen along with our commentary on each:
Check your credit reports using annualcreditreport.com. Keeping an eye on your credit reports has long been a best practice, and should continue to be, today more than ever. Be sure to only use annualcreditreport.com. As the website says, it is the only provider authorized by Federal law to provide you with the free annual reports that already are rightfully yours. Also, so you can obtain a free credit report more than annually, consider staggering the three primary agencies’ reports, selecting one to review every four months.
Freeze your credit. Contact each of the three credit bureaus individually to freeze your credit. Do so now, unless you need a loan to purchase a home or car, a loan for college or are applying for a new credit card soon. Also, be sure to keep the security code you are provided. You will need it to un-freeze your credit whenever you choose to do so in the future.
Consider a credit monitoring service.Equifax has offered to provide a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection via TrustedID Premier. We’ve seen mixed reviews on whether it makes sense to accept Equifax’s offer. First, there’s the whole trust issue raised by the recent breach. Plus, identity thieves have nearly endless patience, so one year of monitoring is only the beginning. That said, other independent services can be costly (especially if you’ve got an entire family to cover), and they may not ultimately offer much that you cannot do on your own if you so choose. It comes down to a cost/benefit analysis unique to you.
Regularly change the passwords and PINs on your financial accounts. Like regularly monitoring your credit reports, periodically changing your financial account login information has been and remains a best practice. Quarterly or at least twice a year makes good sense to us.
How can we help? View a variety of tips and suggestions we have on our website www.odysseypfa.com under Resources – Helpful Consumer Tips. Additionally, Clark Howard has good info on his website www.clark.com.
Just as sensible investing involves taking appropriate steps to support one’s ongoing, personalized plan, we are here to help prepare for and/or react to what life throws our way. Let us know if you’d like help with your personal finances. Life’s a journey––navigate it wisely!