How to Protect your Credit Rating in Light of the Equifax Data Breach

Follow these steps on a regular basis:

Early detection and immediate action is the only way to limit the damage that’s done when your personal information is fraudulently accessed and used. Here are a few steps you can do to help detect and reduce the possibility that your personal account information is used fraudulently:

  • NEVER use a debit card when making purchases online. Only credit cards come with the strongest protections, including not being directly connected to your cash in a bank account and the legal right to dispute illegitimate charges immediately.
  • Regularly review all activity on your credit card, bank and financial accounts, and dispute or report unauthorized activity as soon as it’s detected.
  • Review your credit reports regularly, looking for changes and any incorrect account information.
  • If your credit information has been compromised, ask the three credit bureaus to place a free fraud alert on your credit report file. Unless you qualify for an extended fraud alert, you’ll need to renew this every 90 days. A fraud alert notifies lenders that they should take extra steps to confirm your ID, such as calling you at a preset phone number, before issuing new credit.
  • You can also put a lock or security freeze on your credit report file. A freeze (which can be free or can cost about $10 per file depending on the state where you live) prevents new lenders from accessing your credit report. But be aware that when you use a security freeze, it may delay, interfere with or prohibit the timely approval of any request or application for a new loan, additional credit or applications for insurance, employment background checks, cell phones, etc.
Never do these things:

Remember: never log into your financial accounts or enter your personal or credit card information on websites while connected to a wireless hot spot that’s not secure. Using a hot spot in a public area that does not require any authentication exposes your computer to the risk of being hacked into by thieves who can look on the hot spot and then hack into your email accounts.

Never give discretion to your financial firms and advisers over your financial accounts without requiring additional security procedures in return. Require your financial firm to speak with you and request a verbal password (which is unique to your online password) when transfers are requested from your accounts. Of course, written instructions should also be required in addition to the verbal confirmations.

Finally, never use your email address as your login ID for any financial accounts. In some of the fraudulent transfers reported recently, the thief could use the victim’s email address as the ID and then request a new password to be sent to their compromised email account.

Making these changes may be more of an inconvenience to you and your financial adviser, but if it increases the security of your accounts and prevents even one fraudulent transfer, it will be worth it.

Early detection and immediate action is the only way to limit and stop the damage that can be done when your personal information is fraudulently accessed and used.

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