As you may know, the recent Equifax data breach exposed the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans. Identity thieves can damage your credit and compromise your identity if not caught early enough. The damage can take months – even years – to repair, and it can happen to anyone, even kids. Protect yourself by taking these steps:
1. Review Your Account Statements and Credit Reports
Be vigilant in reviewing your account statements and credit reports regularly so that you can immediately report any unauthorized activity. Be on the lookout for unauthorized purchases, additional credit accounts, additional credit pulls on your credit report.
2. Place Fraud Alerts on Credit Reports
A fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit. The initial alert stays on your report for at least 90 days and is renewable. To place a fraud alert on your credit file, contact one of these agencies and request that the information is passed on to the other two:
• Equifax: 800-525-6285
• Experian: call 888-397-3742
• TransUnion: 800-680-7289
3. Consider Freezing Your Credit
You have the option to freeze your credit lines to prevent anyone from taking out a loan or a credit card in your name. That means that when you’re actually applying for credit, you’ll have to unfreeze your credit line before you apply for a loan. This even includes applying for a store credit card. Also, there may be a fee involved everytime you freeze or unfreeze your credit.
4. Purchase Credit Monitoring
If you don’t have a credit monitoring service already, you may want to consider doing so for peace-of-mind. There are many varieties available for consumers in the marketplace. Arbor Financial Credit Union members are eligible for protection through IDProtect® which will monitor your credit files and other sources of identity theft and alert you if any suspicious activity occurs. The cost is $2 per month for the entire household.
If you think you have become a victim of fraud, IDProtect® will allow you to have access to a dedicated fraud specialist until your credit and identity are restored. This service is available to members and their family by calling the credit union at 269.375.6702.
5. Additional Tips
Below are some simple habits you can do to avoid having your information compromised. These include:
• Change your passwords regularly.
• Use strong and LONG passwords.
• Never share your username, password or security questions with anyone.
• Use account alerts on your eBanking and mobile services.
• Be suspicious of unsolicited emails and phone calls.
• Safeguard credit cards, Social Security numbers, and personal information, and securely destroy documents.
By paying close attention to your information, and adopting these suggestions, you can take control in safeguarding your personal information and reducing the impact of identity theft.