Liberty News

Helpful Hints To Protect Your Financial Information

If you are concerned by reports of a widespread data breach or believe your personal financial information has been compromised,  consider taking the following actions:

Request a credit freeze on your credit report

A freeze restricts access to your credit report, which makes it nearly impossible for someone to open a new account or line of credit in your name. If you have been a victim of identity theft, Minnesota law allows you to place a freeze on your credit report for free. Minnesotans can request a credit freeze for any reason as a proactive measure for a $5 fee. Credit reporting agencies must place the freeze within three days of receiving a request and provide a unique PIN within 10 days of the request.

If you want someone (such as a lender) to have access to your credit report, your will need to temporarily lift or remove the freeze.

To request a credit freeze visit each credit reporting agencies websites for additional information to complete this process:

transunion.com
equifax.com
experian.com

Place a fraud alert on your credit report

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you can request a fraud alert at no charge by contacting one of the three credit reporting companies. You must prove your identity and the alert is active for 90 days and can be renewed. With a fraud alert in place, you can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies.

Check for suspicious or unauthorized activities

Review your credit report and if you find accounts fraudulently opened in your name, close them and contact your credit card companies to reissue new cards if any legitimate accounts have been compromised.

Closely monitor your accounts with creditors including credit cards companies, banks, credit union, and other lenders during the months following any breach.

Consider filing your tax returns early

To prevent someone from fraudulently filing a tax return with your information, file as soon as you have all the needed information.

Beware of “asset recovery” scams

These scams pack a “double whammy” by targeting individuals who have already been victims of fraud. They will lure victims with the promise of getting your money back for an upfront fee and its unlikely they will deliver on their promise.

Don’t fall for phishing emails. If you receive a request for bank account information, passwords or credit card numbers via email, be suspicious. Check to see who it says the sender is. Hover your mouse over the link to see if the sender is masking their email address with a title that appears more legitimate. Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.

Hang up on fraud. Scammers use public information to find out your name and phone number. They often use scare tactics to get you to send money, provide personal information, or gain access to your computer. If someone calls and wants you to hand over money, be very suspicious. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Check your credit report once a year. Credit reports show your credit history, including the number of loan requests and whether it’s for credit cards, auto loans or mortgages. Make sure the report is accurate, and write a letter noting any mistakes. There are three major credit bureaus that provide credit reports for a nominal fee, and there may be variations in each report: Equifax, 800-685-1111, Experian, 888-EXPERIAN, and Trans Union, 800-916-8800.

You can request a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureau through annualcreditreport.com. You can stagger your request throughout the year (once every 4 months, for example) to get a continuous view of your credit report.

Pay attention to billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills don’t arrive on time. An identity thief may have changed your billing address and started to use the credit card.

Use unique and strong passwords for each account with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols in your password.

Minimize the amount of personal information you carry. Many people have several credit cards, including cards for individual retailers; carry them in your purse or wallet only when necessary. Do not store Social Security cards, passports or birth certificates in purses or wallets unless necessary.

Write down credit card names and numbers and store them in a safe place. It’s important to cancel your credit cards immediately if they’ve been stolen, but the key is having the toll free numbers and credit card numbers handy so you know who to call. It also helps to have a list of all credit cards in one place.

Guard the mailbox from theft. Deposit bill payments at the post office or in post office collection boxes. If going on vacation, ask the post office to hold your mail until you return.

Tear up junk mail. If you receive pre-screened credit card or mortgage offers in the mail, tear them up if you decide not to accept the offer.

Reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. Pre-screened credit card offers are an easy target for identity thieves. To opt out of receiving pre-screened credit card offers, call: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688). To remove your name from other national direct mail lists, write: Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.

Only use secure Internet sites for e-commerce. When banking online or shopping with a credit card, most sites will note when you enter or exit a secure connection. Look for a small yellow “padlock” in the toolbar and “https” in the web address.

It’s important to simply know who you are dealing with. Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact. Legitimate organizations that you do business with already have the information they need and will not ask you for it.

Before revealing personal information, find out how it will be used. Ask whether it will be shared with other companies. Many businesses will provide you with their “privacy policy.” Financial service companies, including banks, mortgage companies and credit card companies, are required by federal law to provide consumers with privacy notices detailing what information is shared with different businesses, and to give consumers the opportunity to “opt-out” and decline receiving marketing information.

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