Half of all Americans over 18 were affected by the recent Equifax hack. The sad news is that Americans are getting used to it. We just got hacked, and we think the pins in our cards protected us. Yahoo was hacked, and it revealed nearly 500 million usernames and passwords. The Equifax hack is the mother of all hacks. They are the agency with your social security number, addresses and your mother’s maiden name. Equifax is the company we go to when are concerned our account was just hacked, and their servers were compromised.
I recently instructed financial professionals and their clients to check their credit report 3 – 4 times per year. What do I tell them now? All of the other security compromises were systems we may or may not use: Target, Home Depot, Yahoo. This was different. Consumers can feel powerless, but there are steps they should take to protect their personal information. Protecting our data is our job.
Check Your Credit – This sounds odd after the Equifax hack, but it is still necessary. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report every year from the big three agencies: Equifax, Transunion and Experian. Consumers go to AnnualCreditReport.com for their reports. Check credit scores with these sites and the app CreditKarma and report suspicious to Federal Trade Commission.
Watch Your Accounts – Every week my wife checks our bank accounts with receipts we have. She compares the bank ledger with receipts we have. Don’t wait until the account gets hacked. Check your statements religiously (e.g. – every Sunday). Many banks offer alerts for charges that are over a certain amount or outside of the US. These services are free, and they are sent to your cell phone. It is the consumer’s responsibility to know what’s going on with their money, identity and information.
Monitor Your Mail – Thieves still go through your snail mail to gain information about you. Don’t wait until you just got hacked. Mail your bills from a USPS mailbox. Use crosscut shredders to dispose of bills, pre-approved credit card applications and other personal information. Email users should not click on links from people, companies or organizations you do not know. Phishing scams gain access your financial information and your personal and professional contacts. That’s how internet problems go viral.
Freeze! – Many experts are telling consumers to implement a “credit freeze.” A credit freeze will prevent anyone, including you, from applying for loans and credit cards. This prevents thieves from applying for cards or opening accounts without you knowing about it. The challenge is that it also blocks you from car, home and student loan applications. Unfreezing your credit can be time consuming and inconvenient, but it could save you time and money in the long run.
Protect Your Passwords – I sound like a broken record, but this is STILL critical. Use password managers like Password Keeper, 1Password or LastPass to securely store your information. All of these offer 256-bit encryption for your data. The best part is they give users an easy way to generate complex passwords with randomly generate numbers, letter and characters. Change your passwords regularly and use two-factor authentication on your devices (e.g. – iPhone, iPad, laptop, etc.).
Password Management Apps
All of us will be affected at some point in our life by hackers and identity thieves. Consumers need to know what to when, no if, it happens. The best plan is to slow down hackers by making it difficult to gain access to information. Contact our trainers for a Prevention Packet.
Scientifically Speaking, of course…