When is the last time you checked your credit report? For some of us there is a credit score on our credit card statements and we go by that. For others we can check on line and see what our score is on a frequent basis. If you haven’t checked into it, now might be a good time with the data breach with Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus. When we use credit in the form of a loan, use of credit cards, or mortgage loan our information may be sent to one of the three bureaus: Trans Union, Experian, or Equifax. It is our responsibility to make sure that what shows up on our report is correct and the facts are accurate.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers the following suggestions to protect your credit:
- Review your credit report. You are entitled to one free report from all three bureaus each year. You can request them through AnnualCreditReport.com .
- Consider a security freeze. This will restrict access to your credit file. Creditors typically won’t offer credit if they can’t access your file. The freeze prevents you and others from opening new accounts in your name.
- Set up a fraud alert. This will require that a financial institution verifies your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card or increasing the credit limit on an existing account. This typically only lasts for 90 days so you may want to renew it. If you are a victim of ID theft, you can get a fraud alert that stays in place for seven years. Each time you renew the alert, you can get a free credit report from each of the bureaus.
- Read credit card and bank statements carefully. Look closely for charges you did not make. This week alone, I’ve talked with three people who have found charges, they did not make. Thieves sometimes will take a small amount from your account and then return if the small amount goes unnoticed.
- Don’t ignore bills from people you don’t know. A bill on an account you don’t recognize may be a sign that someone else has opened an account in your name. Contact them to find out.
- Shred documents with personal or sensitive information.
- If using on-line accounts, make sure to create strong passwords and change them frequently. Don’t use address or birthdates in them.
- File your taxes as soon as possible to prevent others from doing so before you.
- Secure your phone and email, never click unsolicited, unexpected or suspicious-looking links sent to you by email or text. You might check out FCC Smartphone Security Checker, a customizable interactive tool.
Bottom line is we all work hard for our money and we want to make sure that we monitor and keep track of it. If you have any further questions, please give me a call at the office at 330-264-8722.