Protecting Your Credit From a Security Breach
What to do if you're a victim of identity theft
Report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.identitytheft.gov or phone 1-877-438-4338, 1-866-653-4261 (TTY). You may also file a report with your local police. Contact the credit reporting bureau about correcting your report. Have an alert or a freeze placed on your credit reports. Close fraudulent accounts. Contact creditors where false charges occurred.
Continue to monitor all of your accounts and statements.
Keep a close eye on your bank accounts. Always check statements. View account information online and/or sign up for text alerts to monitor more frequently. Look for charges or withdrawals that you didn’t make. Contact the bank or lender to report false or inaccurate charges.
Check your credit report regularly.
You are entitled to one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Spread these out over the year and check one every four months. Be sure to go to the right website: www.annualcreditreport.com. Other website may charge a fee. Your credit report is free but there is a small fee ($10-$20) to obtain your credit score. Monitor your report for errors or signs of fraud. If you see anything suspicious, contact the credit reporting bureau immediately.
You can place an Initial Fraud Alert on your credit report and creditors or business must verify your identity when anyone applies for credit in your name. The initial alert expires in 90 days but can be renewed. Victims of proven fraud are allowed a 7 year fraud alert. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and click on a link for any of the credit bureaus. Placing a fraud alert with one bureau automatically places the alert with the other bureaus.
Consider a security freeze on your report.
A security freeze or credit freeze prevents lenders from accessing your report; so, no one will be able to open an account in your name until you lift the freeze. Typically, a freeze with one bureau will not automatically be placed on all three.
As always, continue to guard your personal information and PINS.
Carefully guard social security number, bank account numbers, personal identification numbers, etc. Any financial documents (including checks) that you keep at home should be in a secure location – preferably locked. Beware of calls or emails that ask for personal or financial information. Never give out information over the phone unless you initiated the call or are certain that you are talking to a reputable person. If someone claims to be a relative or from your bank - verify their identity. It’s okay to hang up and place a direct call to verify the identity of the caller. The National Do Not Call Registry is a free, easy way to reduce telemarketing calls. To register or to get information, visit www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. Don’t open files or click on links in emails from someone you don’t know. Thieves use phishing scams to try to access your information. Cut back on the amount of legitimate marketing emails you receive by contacting the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial email from DMA members at www.dmachoice.org. Registration is free and lasts six years.
Shred mail and documents.
Dumpster diving can give thieves access to bank statements, credit card statements, health insurance numbers, pre-approved credit card offers, and other personal information. Shred anything that might have your personal financial information. Opt out of pre-screened credit card and insurance offers. Call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. Opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many companies for five years by registering with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Your name will be put on a "delete" file and made available to direct-mail marketers and organizations. This registry applies only to organizations that use DMA's Mail Preference Service. To register, go to www.dmachoice.org,
Keep devices secure.
Do you shop or bank online? Have you used a mobile app to check your account balance? Do you receive email messages from your credit card company? Make sure you keep virus software up to date. Log-out of accounts, exit websites and close apps as soon as you are finished. Password protect your phone, tablet, or computer. Use strong passwords. Avoid obvious passwords such as your birthdate, address, maiden name, etc.