Every day it seems like cyber crooks are ramping up their game, stealing sensitive personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims.
That’s why it’s so important to take extra precautions while conducting your everyday business online. For starters, it’s important to avoid entering any passwords or account information when you’re using a public Wi-Fi
network. These types of networks are unprotected and can be a haven for cyber thieves looking to steal your information.
Another safeguard is to be on the lookout for any suspicious emails, offers, or links you may come across online. Phishing
is a type of scam that tries to trick you into revealing your sensitive information, and it can come in many different forms, including fake emails and phony search engine results.
In addition to being vigilant on the web, there are some extra precautions you can take to protect your finances and identify. One approach is to place a fraud alert
on your credit report. This can be accomplished by contacting each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. There is no charge to implement a fraud alert. When you have an active fraud alert on your credit report, it makes it harder for crooks to open credit in your name. Companies will need to verify your identify – usually by contacting you directly – before issuing new credit. A fraud alert stays on your credit report for one year, and you can place another one when the one year period is up.
A more radical step is to request a security freeze
(also known as a credit freeze). Like a fraud alert, there is no charge to implement a security freeze, but you must freeze your credit individually at each of the three credit bureaus. When a security freeze is in place, it blocks potential creditors from accessing your credit reports entirely. So, if a crook tries to apply for credit in your name, the creditor will be unable to pull the credit report, and thus the new account will not be opened. Keep in mind however that if you have a security freeze in place, you’ll need to lift it before you attempt to take out any new credit cards, or apply for any type of loan or financing.
When you activate a security freeze, you are given a PIN by the credit bureau. You must keep the PIN somewhere safe, because you will need it when you wish to lift the security freeze. It’s also worth noting that a credit freeze only locks down your credit reports, and therefore will not impact your credit score or prevent you from using your existing credit cards. Security freezes will also not prevent you from accessing your own credit reports, nor will they block your existing creditors and debt collectors from having access.
You can place a fraud alert or a security freeze at each of the three credit reporting agencies using the links below:
And remember that while a security freeze or fraud alert will certainly offer you protection from cyber thievery, neither method is foolproof. You’ll still need to remain vigilant by checking your credit reports, bank accounts, credit cards, and loan statements on a regular basis, and report any suspicious or unusual activity to your financial institution immediately. Staying alert is the best defense against identity theft.