In September, over 140 million people were affected by a security breach at Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. It is essential for your own financial future protection to always be cognizant and diligent of anything or anyone that could adversely affect your ability to support the standard of living you have dreamed and hoped for. It is the age-old belief that it won’t be my personal information affected by the security breach. However, because of the large numbers of people affected, it is imperative for everyone to be diligent, be their own advocate and take the correct steps to protect themselves as best they can.
To advocate for your personal financial security moving forward, we have outlined a few easy strategies to follow:
You can apply for a free credit report. There are currently 3 credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian (which was formerly known as TRW.) These agencies are actually for-profit companies owned by their shareholders and not government entities or funded by the government as many people may think. Although they are generally regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), they are still independent companies and therefore it is important to verify information from all three institutions.
2. Credit Freeze
Consider placing a credit freeze on your account to ensure your information has not been recently compromised by fraudulent activity. If you have no reason to borrow money in the near future, it may be worth spending the small fee to freeze your account and thoroughly examine any transactions in question.
3. Monitor Money and Credit Card Statements
Life gets busy for all of us! But, you need to take the time and review your bank statements as well as your credit card reports more often than once a month. If you remember to analyze your personal financial information on a frequent basis, you are more apt to respond to fraudulent behavior in a more timely manner, thus reducing the amount of time required to remedy any unfortunate situations. Or, if you prefer, there are companies (like LifeLock or Identify Force to name a couple) who will do the monitoring (fee-based) and alert you regarding any suspicious behavior.
Be your own advocate! If a doctor prescribed a new medication, you should take the time to research the side effects and benefits as well as confirm that your new medication does not negatively interact with prescription drugs you are currently taking. The same theory applies to financial security and the future well-being of your assets and personal information. If you allocate the time to do the research and follow the strategies outlined above, you will greatly increase the potential for a worry-free financial future.