Don’t Get Tricked: Identity Protection Tips You Need

October 22, 2020 &• 7 min read by Eva Velasquez Comments 0 Comments

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The weather is turning, fall is in the air, and Halloween is around the corner—which means it’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. How can you ensure October is full of treats while not falling for any scammers’ tricks? By arming yourself with these identity protection tips.

Every American should understand the basics of identity theft protection. According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 10% of people 16 and older have been the victim of identity theft. That’s why we’re encouraging people to educate themselves on identity protection tips this autumn. After all, there’s nothing quite as scary as identity fraud!

Here are some identity theft tricks to watch out for and identity security treats to take advantage of.

Trick: Using Your Data to Open New Accounts

According to the FTC, credit card fraud—including opening new credit card accounts—was the most commonly reported form of identity theft in 2019. Thieves can rack up hundreds of dollars’ worth of bills before you know it happened.

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  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.
  • …we live in Oklahoma.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to your cybersecurity to avoid your data being used to open new accounts in your name:

  • Never use the same password across multiple accounts. Switch your passwords up.
  • Never use a password that’s easy to guess. This includes passwords that include your birthday, first or last name, or address.
  • Use passwords that are random combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Enable two-factor authentication whenever it’s offered.
  • Don’t share or write down your passwords.
  • Never click on unknown email links or pop-ups on websites.
  • Make sure websites are secure before entering your payment information.
  • Never connect to public Wi-Fi that isn’t secure.
  • Never walk away from your laptop in public places.
  • Enable firewall protection.
  • Monitor your accounts and credit reports for unusual activity.

Treat: Check Your Credit Reports

Identity theft protection starts by being proactive and regularly monitoring your information for suspicious activity. That includes monitoring your credit report.

Did you know that you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year from all three credit reporting agencies? In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, make October the month that you request your reports and go over them with a fine-toothed comb. Make sure you recognize all the open accounts under your name.

[Note: Through April 2021, you can review your credit reports weekly.]

An added bonus of checking your reports early in the month is that you can give your credit a good once-over before the upcoming holiday shopping season. Unexplained dips in your credit score could be a sign that something is wrong.

ExtraCredit Five Features

When you request your free credit report from the credit bureaus, your report does not come with your credit score—you have to request that separately. Sign up for ExtraCredit to get 28 of your FICO® scores and your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. You’ll also get account monitoring and $1 million identity theft insurance.

Trick: Charity Fraud

October also happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everywhere you look, pink is on display. With so much national attention on breast cancer, it’s easy to fall for scams that claim to be legitimate charities.

Consumers should also be on the lookout for phony COVID-19 related scams this fall and winter. For example, watch out for fake charities that pretend to provide COVID relief to groups or families but are simply stealing money.

Even worse than handing over money to these heartless fraudsters is that you may have handed over your credit card numbers or other personally identifiable information in the process.

Treat: Know Your Worthy Causes

Before donating to a charitable cause, do your homework. You can use websites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance to check a charity’s reputation. Additionally, consider contacting your state’s charity regulator to confirm the organization is registered to raise money in your state.

After you’ve verified the status of the charity, consider making donations directly through the national organization. Avoid giving money or financial information directly to someone that reaches out to you through email, phone calls, or door-to-door interactions.

It might be a bit of extra work, but at the end of the day, you can feel good knowing your money is going to support a real cause. If you want to support October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, consider donating directly on the national website. An added bonus is that you’ll receive a receipt you can use for tax deduction purposes.

Trick: Tax Refund Fraud

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces its “dirty dozen” scams. These are the tax fraud scams the IRS determines to be the most common for the year. The 2020 list includes refund theft. A tax thief gains access to your information, files a fraudulent return in your name before you do, and has the funds paid out them. The only way you find out about it is that your legitimate tax return—the one you submit—is rejected for having already been filed.

Another way individuals fall victim to tax refund fraud is by using an unscrupulous return vendor. Dishonest vendors and ghost preparers steal personal information to file a tax refund and pocket the money or use that information for other types of identity fraud.

It’s unclear what exactly the next round of stimulus legislation will include, but if another stimulus check is included, watch out for attempts to steal your COVID stimulus checks. Remember that the IRS never contacts you via email, social media, or text.

Treat: File Early

It may feel like you just finished filing your 2019 taxes, but it’s never too early to start preparing for next year. While filing your taxes might be the last thing you want to think about this month, it’s crucial to stay on top of your tax return documents so you’re ready to file as early as possible. This is especially true for individuals who have reason to believe that their personal data has already been breached.

Always ensure you work with a reputable tax return vendor. You can look at the vendor’s online reviews before considering them as an option for tax return help.

Additionally, individuals that are paid to assist with or prepare federal tax returns must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on returns. Always ask for this number before you hire an individual and hand over your personal information.

If you file early, you can beat out someone filing before you and receiving your return first. The earliest you can file is January.

Trick: Social Media Scams

Our social media accounts allow us to stay connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, scammers understand this and have started using social media to commit identity fraud.

There are many variations of social media phishing scams, but the basics are generally that a scammer creates an account to gain your trust and gather personal information from you. For example, many people have their name, birthday, and workplace information on their Facebook or other social media account. Those three things alone could be enough for someone to gain everything else they need to create a credit card application under your name or access your existing accounts.

Treat: Be More Exclusive and Private

Consider taking a quiet October morning to comb through your social media accounts. Start with your followers. Consider deleting everyone you don’t know personally.

If a follower base is important to you, consider another approach. Go through each social profile and scrub any personal details. Change the spelling of your last name slightly, delete your birthday, and remove other personal information, such as place of work. Ultimately, this can reduce the risk of being an easy target for identity fraud.

These core identity protection tips should help you stay safer online. With COVID-19 causing people to feel scared, individuals are more vulnerable to being tricked. Remember that identity fraud happens to millions of people every year, and it’s important to remain vigilant.

Stay Vigilant This Fall

Identity theft can have long-lasting consequences. If you’re recovering from identity fraud or simply unhappy with your credit score, consider signing up for ExtraCredit. ExtraCredit is a five-in-one credit product that provides tools to helps you build, guard, track, reward, and restore your credit.


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Source: credit.com

What Should I Do if I Lost My Social Security Card?

October 24, 2019 &• 4 min read by Kasey Adrian Comments 0 Comments

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You might not use your Social Security card every day, but you do need to use it occasionally. If you lost your security card, you’ll need to request a replacement form for a Social Security card from the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can apply online by choosing the replacement tab for your lost security card. Requesting a replacement card is not eligible for all 50 states.

The service is also not available if your valid driver’s license or passport was issued by US territory. This includes American Samoa, Guam, Northern Islands, Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands.

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How Long Does It Take to Get a Replacement Card?

If you can get to your local SSA office just before opening, you can get in and out in about 15 minutes. If you can only go later in the day, the wait time could vary.

After the SSA processes your application, they’ll give you a letter indicating that a card has been requested. You can show this to anyone who requests a Social Security replacement card. Your new card will arrive within two weeks.

For online or mail requests for a replacement card, the application process could take a little longer. However, after your application is processed, you can expect your new card within two weeks. Once you get your card be sure you keep it in a secure place, such as a safe or lockbox.

Need to Replace Your Lost Social Security Card? Apply Online!

Creating a free my Social Security account takes less than 10 minutes and lets you replace a lost or stolen SSN card. To apply online at my Social Security account to receive a new security social card you need to meet these requirements:

  • You’re a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address. This includes APO, FPO, and DPO addresses.
  • You aren’t requesting a name change or any other change to your card.
  • You have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card from one of the many participating states or the District of Columbia.

Don’t Want to Apply Online for a Social Security Card?

If you don’t want to apply online or can’t create an online account, you can visit your local SSA office. Before visiting your Social Security office, you’ll need to collect a few original documents to provide citizenship.

Documents must be current and show your name. You must provide your certificate of citizenship. There are two separate documents and you need one from each:

Citizenship:

  • A religious record made before the age of five showing your date of birth
  • A hospital record of your birth
  • A passport

Identity:

  • A driver’s license
  • State-issued non-driver identification card
  • A passport

If you don’t have any identification from the category or can’t get a replacement in 10 days, your SSA office will ask to see other current original documents. It will still need to show your date of birth, your name and a recent photograph. The following cards are acceptable IDs:

  • Employee card identification
  • School card identification
  • Health insurance card (not a Medicare card)
  • A military card identification

What if My Child Lost or Doesn’t Have a Social Security Card?

If your child has or can acquire a state-issued birth certificate before age five, you need to submit it. If not, you need to provide other documents to confirm their age, such as your child’s passport.

Anyone age 12 or older requesting a new Social Security number will need to be interviewed. They will ask for evidence to show that your child doesn’t have a Social Security number. Here are documents you can use to prove that a Social Security number wasn’t assigned:

  • If your child lived outside the United States for an extended period, a current or previous passport, school and/or employment records and any other record that would show long-term residence outside the United States.
  • If your child has lived in the United States and is applying for an original Social Security number, get information about the schools your child attended or may ask you to provide copies of tax records.

While using a certificate of naturalization to prove age or citizenship, you can’t use it as proof of identity. Proof of identity includes your child’s name, identifying information and a recent photograph. A child’s passport is preferred. If the document isn’t available they may accept:

  • State-issued non-driver’s card identification
  • Doctor, clinic or hospital record
  • School card identification

A parent must also provide proof of identity documents. The document must show your name, date of birth, and a recent photograph.

Why You Should Replace a Lost Social Security Card

Even though losing a Social Security card can be a stressful situation, applying for a new card is the best option. Your Social Security card and number are some of the most important documents you will need throughout your lifetime. It’s used when you get hired for a job, apply for federal loans, retire, do your tax returns and much more. And if the wrong person gets a hold of your card, you could become a victim of identity theft.

Memorizing your Social Security number isn’t the best option in this scenario. Your Social Security card is a government-issued document that still needs to be in your possession.

Always remember that monitoring your credit score and credit card should be an ongoing task. Once your information has been lost or stolen, it could be at risk. If you want to keep track of your credit score, get your credit report card from Credit.com. You can also get your free credit score.

If you have lost your Social Security card, use the information above to get a replacement. Always keep an eye out for your credit activity to make sure it hasn’t gotten into the wrong hands.


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Source: credit.com

COVID-19 Scams

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As if fearing the health-related consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus wasn’t enough, there’s also a fair amount of financial uncertainty related to recession and an unstable economy. People all across the United States are wondering how they’ll pay their bills and make ends meet as they file for unemployment and wait for a one-time stimulus check that may not cover the bills.

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Privacy Policy

It’s unfortunate, but some bad actors will always take advantage of situations like coronavirus. In addition to everything else, individuals also need to be on the lookout for COVID-19 scams that are cropping up. In fact, there are so many coronavirus scams out there right now that the FTC created an FTC Scam Bingo game to try and spread the word.

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  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!
  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.
  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?
  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.
  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.
  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Get everything you need to master your credit today.

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Read up on what COVID-19 scams to look out for and how you can protect yourself and your finances.

COVID-19 Stimulus Check Scams

Some scammers are tricking people into thinking they need to provide personal information to obtain their government relief check. Consumers do not need to sign up for the federal stimulus checks. The government plans to distribute them based on consumers’ 2018 or 2019 federal tax returns starting April 2020. Keep in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact by email, text, or social media.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not respond to any correspondence claiming to be the IRS or other branch of the government requesting personal information in exchange for access to your stimulus check. For accurate information about the federal relief checks and when you can expect yours, visit the IRS’s coronavirus resource.

Student Loan Scams

Americans owe over $1.64 trillion in student loan debt, so it’s no wonder that scammers are preying on this financially vulnerable population. Watch out for offers to forgive your student loan debt in its entirety or change your repayment plan for a fee, or requests for other personal information in order to suspend your payments in response to coronavirus. There is no such thing as instant student loan relief, and you should not need to pay a fee for help from your loan servicer. All federally backed loans have automatically suspended payments and set interest to 0%.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not accept unsolicited offers to help you with your
student loan payments and never give out your personal information. If you are
having trouble making payments because you’ve lost your job, reach out to your
loan servicer for options.

Social Security Scams

Social Security scams are common, but coronavirus has put a new twist on the scam. Now, in addition to watching out for scammers claiming that your Social Security number is about to be suspended, you also need to watch out for calls or letters claiming that your benefits will be canceled due to coronavirus-related office closures. Social Security offices are closed, but officers are still working, and your benefits will not be suspended. And your Social Security number will never be suspended.

How to Protect Yourself

If you are unsure if a call or email is from the Social Security Administration, reach out to them yourself for confirmation before sharing any personal information. If you have already given you Social Security number to a scammer, visit IdentityTheft.gov/SSA for steps on how to protect your credit and identity.

Medicare Scams

Because older individuals are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, scammers have been targeting them with Medicare scams. Be on the lookout for fraudulent Medicare representatives asking you to verify personal information, like your bank account, Social Security, or Medicare numbers. Medicare representatives will never call you to verify your account number, offer you free equipment or services, or try to sell you anything.

How to Protect Yourself

If you’re
not sure if a phone call is legitimate, hang up and call Medicare yourself.
That way you can confirm that you are talking to an actual Medicare
representative. To reach the Medicare office, call 1-800-633-4227.

Fraudulent Charities

Whether it’s a natural disaster or worldwide pandemic
like the coronavirus, legitimate charities work hard to aid people in need.
This can include providing food, funds, housing or other forms of assistance. Unfortunately,
fake charities can crop up too. They might use names that sound similar to real
charities and may even have emails, websites and phone numbers that seem
legitimate but aren’t.

How to Protect Yourself

Donate to charities that you are already familiar with. If you’re questioning the legitimacy of a charity, you can use third-party websites to check credentials. Options include Charity Navigator and Give.org, which is maintained by the Better Business Bureau.

Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Scams

As you continue to navigate the uncharted waters of a
worldwide pandemic, be on the lookout for COVID-19 scams. If you’re ever unsure
about something, you can consult trustworthy government resources or well-known
news outlets to verify information. Share this information about scams with
others so they know what to be on the lookout for as well.

More resources on scams:

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Source: credit.com

5 Steps to Protect Your Digital Identity in The Age of Breaches

July 9, 2018 &• 8 min read by Matt Lewis Comments 0 Comments

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The record number of data breaches in 2017 (1,579 publicly-reported breaches to be exact) and the sensitivity of the data stolen (especially social security numbers and passwords) have led many to wonder how to protect themselves. Since I work in the identity protection industry, my friends and family have asked what recommendations they should follow to secure their personal data. In this write-up, I’ll share some basic information, options, and suggestions for what to do in the wake of a data breach.

Credit Card vs. Identity Theft, Understanding the Difference

First, let’s distinguish credit card theft from identity theft. My credit card number is stolen reliably about once per year. It’s a nuisance, but that is all. The bank eats all losses related to the theft and I simply get a new credit card number. But if a thief gets a hold of my SNAPD info (SSN, Name, Address, Phone number, and Date of birth) and applies for a credit card in my name—that is identity theft, and it is more difficult to remedy. I may not even realize it has happened until I try to buy a car and my loan application is denied because my credit has been ruined (after, for instance, a thief opened a credit card account with my information, racked up charges, and never paid the bill). I can’t easily change my SNAPD info like I can a credit card number, so I must begin a long, painful process of trying to restore my good credit. Because my information is spread out across so many companies, it’s on me as the victim to clean it up everywhere, and I may not be able to buy anything on credit until that’s done.

#animation-wrapper max-width: 450px; margin: 0 auto; width: auto; height: 600px; font-family: ProximaNova-Regular, Arial, sans-serif; #animation-wrapper .box background: linear-gradient(#0095D8, #1D4BB6); color: #fff; text-align: center; font-family: ProximaNova-Regular, Arial, sans-serif; height: 130px; padding-top: 10px; .content .box p margin: 0 0; .box .btn-primary color: #fff; background-color: #ff7f00; margin: 10px 0; .chat ul margin: 0; padding: 0; list-style: none; .message-left .message-time display: block; font-size: 12px; text-align: left; padding-left: 30px; padding-top: 4px; color: #ccc; font-family: Courier; .message-right .message-time display: block; font-size: 12px; text-align: right; padding-right: 20px; padding-top: 4px; color: #ccc; font-family: Courier; .message-left text-align: left; margin-bottom: 6px; .message-left .message-text max-width: 80%; display: inline-block; background: #0095D8; padding: 8px 15px; font-size: 14px; color: #fff; border-radius: 30px; font-weight: 100; line-height: 1.5em; .message-right text-align: right; margin-bottom: 6px; .message-right .message-text line-height: 1.5em; display: inline-block; background: #1D4BB6; padding: 8px 15px; font-size: 14px; color: #fff; border-radius: 30px; line-height: 1.5em; font-weight: 100; text-align: left; .chat background: #fff; margin: 0; border-radius: 0; .chat-container height: 450px; padding: 5px 15px; overflow: hidden; .spinme-right display: inline-block; padding: 15px 20px; font-size: 14px; border-radius: 30px; line-height: 1.25em; font-weight: 100; opacity: .2; .spinme-left display: inline-block; padding: 15px 20px; font-size: 14px; color: #ccc; border-radius: 30px; line-height: 1.25em; font-weight: 100; opacity: .2; .spinner margin: 0; width: 30px; text-align: center; .spinner>div width: 10px; height: 10px; border-radius: 100%; display: inline-block; -webkit-animation: sk-bouncedelay 1.4s infinite ease-in-out both; animation: sk-bouncedelay 1.4s infinite ease-in-out both; background: #000; .spinner .bounce1 -webkit-animation-delay: -.32s; animation-delay: -.32s; .spinner .bounce2 -webkit-animation-delay: -.16s; animation-delay: -.16s; @-webkit-keyframes sk-bouncedelay 0%, 100%, 80% -webkit-transform: scale(0); 40% -webkit-transform: scale(1); @keyframes sk-bouncedelay 0%, 100%, 80% -webkit-transform: scale(0); transform: scale(0); 40% -webkit-transform: scale(1); transform: scale(1); .ad-container padding: 15px 30px; background-color: #fff; max-width: 690px; box-shadow: 1px 1px 4px #888; margin: 20px auto; .ad padding: 10px 6px; max-width: 630px; .ad-title font-size: 20px; color: #07b; line-height: 22px; margin-bottom: 6px; letter-spacing: -.32px; .ad-link line-height: 18px; padding-left: 26px; position: relative; .ad-link::before content: ‘Ad’; color: #006621; font-size: 10px; width: 21px; line-height: 12px; padding: 2px 0; text-align: center; border: 1px solid #006621; border-radius: 4px; box-sizing: border-box; display: inline-block; position: absolute; left: 0; .ad-link a color: #006621; text-decoration: none; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; .ad-copy color: #000; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; letter-spacing: -.34px; margin-top: 6px; display: inline-block; .ad .breaker font-size: 0; .box .box-desc font-family: ProximaNova-Bold, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 17px; font-weight: 600; width: 225px; margin: 0 auto; .btn display: inline-block; margin-bottom: 0; font-weight: 400; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle; touch-action: manipulation; cursor: pointer; background-image: none; border: 1px solid transparent; white-space: nowrap; padding: 6px 12px; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1.428571429; border-radius: 4px; -webkit-user-select: none; -moz-user-select: none; -ms-user-select: none; user-select: none; font-family: ProximaNova-Semibold, Arial, sans-serif; text-decoration: none; .btn-group-lg>.btn, .btn-lg padding: 10px 16px; font-size: 18px; line-height: 1.3333333; border-radius: 6px; #ad-4 font-family: Arial, sans-serif; background-color: #fff; #ad-4 .ad-title color: #2130ab; #animation-wrapper .cta-ec background: #79af3e; color: #fff; width: 155px; height: 41px; font-family: ProximaNova-Semibold, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; margin: 10px auto 4px auto; #animation-wrapper .ec-logo display: block; margin: 0 auto; width: 140px; @media (max-width:500px) .ad padding: 20px 18px; max-width: 630px;

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!
  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.
  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?
  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.
  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.
  • …we live in Oklahoma.

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Call: 1.844.346.3296or learn more

How do you prevent identity theft from happening? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Think of protecting your identity health like protecting your body health. To be healthy, you pursue a combination of diet, exercise, physical checkups, etc. The same is true with identity health. You must follow preventative steps to keep your information safe.

While the biggest breaches are months old, we aren’t out of the woods yet. Perhaps we’ll see better protections and systems put in place over time. But for now, your SNAPD info remains a bit like a credit password you cannot reset, putting you in a horrible position if it gets stolen.

Credit Freezes

There are many articles recommending consumers freeze their credit. This involves getting a pin number you can use to turn your credit off and on with the primary credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (Innovis, the fourth largest, is also sometimes included). While your credit report is turned off (frozen), any applications for credit (including those by thieves) will be denied. When you apply for something that requires a credit check (mortgage, car loan, cell phone account, etc.), you must unfreeze your credit before you apply and then turn it off again once the credit decision is made. You will pay a fee ($10 or so per bureau, depending where you live) each time you activate and deactivate the freeze, which state attorneys general are now successfully pressuring the bureaus to waive. Freezing your credit certainly seems like a good idea now that the most sensitive information for half of all Americans is known to be in the wrong hands. It is up to each person to decide whether the hassle and cost is worth it.

It is important to understand that even after freezing your credit at the primary bureaus (remember, no silver bullet), you may still be vulnerable to identity theft. There are other smaller and less frequently used credit bureaus. Also, freezing your credit will not protect against transactions that don’t go through a credit bureau, which can include payday lending, tax filing, health care transactions, etc. That being said, don’t let the presence of scary diseases stop you from taking basic health precautions that are within your control.

Credit and Identity Monitoring

Another option to consider is credit or identity monitoring services. Credit monitoring services, including some offered for free after a breach, will alert you when you have credit activity at the major bureaus. Identity monitoring services usually include credit monitoring, plus identity monitoring features such as monitoring the dark web for your information or alerting you to other important events that do not traverse the bureaus. Some identity monitoring services will also help you to resolve issues if you are exposed to identity fraud, and/or insure you against financial losses that may result from identity theft. It can be somewhat confusing because many offerings have the name “identity” or “ID” in them, including those that only provide credit monitoring. Make sure you read the full service offering and understand everything you are being provided. Full disclosure: I am an employee of ID Analytics, a Symantec company and receive a free subscription to LifeLock, an identity theft protection service, as an employee benefit.

To summarize: When considering ways to protect your personal data, good options to consider are freezing your credit, signing up for a credit or identity monitoring service, or both. If you choose either of these options, do not take the approach of just doing something for a few months until the current breach news dies down. It may take time for the stolen data to be sold and distributed, and the bad guys are aware that everyone is on guard when breaches are top headlines. There is a good likelihood that at least some fraudsters will wait until the news cycle moves on and people let their guard down, to increase the chances of their fraud going undetected. It is common to see a burst of fraud activity a year after a breach.

Digital safety also includes protecting your passwords and being aware of phishing/social engineering techniques.

Passwords

You have likely heard a lot of advice about passwords that you are not following because it’s not practical. For instance, we’re told to use different passwords for every website, but now that we all have dozens (or hundreds) of logins, remembering separate passwords simply isn’t possible. About half of consumers reuse passwords across sites and billions of passwords have been exposed in breaches.

In my opinion, the best way to solve for passwords is to use a password manager, such as LastPass, Dashlane, 1password, or Norton Identity Safe (compare features to pick the best one for you). With a password manager, you create one master password that unlocks access to all your other passwords, which it will auto-fill into web site forms for you or allow you to copy/paste whenever needed. I let the password manager generate and manage a different 16-digit complex password for each site (you must change your existing site passwords to get this benefit). It also stores other secret information for me, such as credit card numbers, family member SSNs, etc., making it a full-featured secure digital wallet. It allows me the convenience to copy/paste these values whenever needed across all my devices, along with the security of strong encryption.

At a minimum, take the time to create two reasonably complex passwords, one that you use for less secure sites (cat toy shopping sites, knitting discussion boards, etc.), and a second that you use for sites that must be secure (banks, retirement accounts, etc.). If thieves steal username and password combinations from less secure sites, they will try them at bank, investment, and email sites too. By separating those two categories of sites, you add some protection. A reasonably complex password should be 8-20 characters and include uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters.

Phishing / Social Engineering

Phishing and social engineering fraud involves fraudsters trying to trick you into giving them your information willingly (under false pretenses). It may be a phone call where they ask for personal info or passwords, it may be an email with a link or attachment, or it may be a browser window that pops up from a web site you visit. The best general defense against this is to educate yourself. Consider taking an online mini-course to become familiar with the types of emails, pop-ups, and web addresses that are considered suspicious. If you’re a novice, try AntiPhishing Phil. It’s dated, but it’s the best game I could find to teach some basics. Below are two other scenarios to be mindful of, which I have seen friends and neighbors fall victim to.

Do not click on or follow the instructions of any warnings saying your computer has been hacked, encrypted, is in danger, or instructing you to call a number for protection or more information. In my experience, 99% of the time, these are browser pop-ups trying to trick you into clicking something. Just turn off your computer and avoid that website. If you don’t have a quality antivirus & security package installed, this is another important piece of protection.

Do not give any personal information or passwords over the phone (or in person). Good guys will never ask you for your password (though my cell phone company now asks me for a passcode I had to set up for service calls…sigh) and should not ask you for sensitive information like full SSN. I have had legitimate folks ask me for my SSN to look me up in their system, I simply ask them to look me up another way. Be very mindful of whether you initiated an email or phone call or if the other party did (other party = more risk). If the caller claims to be from an institution you do business with, but you doubt the legitimacy of the call, hang up and call the main number for the business to verify that they were in fact trying to contact you.

When it comes to digital safety, the good news is that I believe over time, more and more solutions will be created that move the burden of security away from individuals. New technologies show a lot of promise that trust can be built into the technology architecture itself. In the meantime, I hope this primer has been helpful.

If you’re concerned your credit has been impacted by identity theft, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

Matt Lewis is Director of TechOps for ID Analytics, with more than 20 years of experience in software and technology operations. In this role, he leads the 30-person TechOps department whose philosophy for operational excellence is to build automation that runs the environment, continuously working to eliminate manual steps wherever possible.

Lewis has championed products which use analytics to protect companies from identity and credit card fraud, previously holding positions at HNC Software and FICO. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

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