In the age of technology, it's easier than ever for hackers to access your personal information. According to Experian, 1 in 20 Americans fall victim to identity theft every year. There are a few steps you can take to protect your financial identity:
Place A Credit Freeze
You can freeze your credit at the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This is going to stop anyone from opening new lines of credit in your name with your social security number. One downside is it also prevents you from being able to open new lines of credit, but the good news is it will stop you from making impulse purchases like opening a department store card while you're checking out at the register. If you do need to open a new line of credit, you can unfreeze temporarily or permanently. It's important to always save your PIN number upon freezing.
Make it a habit to file your returns as soon as you can upon receiving all necessary tax documents to ensure you are receiving the refund you are owed. If your return is fraudulently filed, let the IRS know as soon as possible to be sure your actual return is processed.
Many bank websites and standalone sites like Credit Karma allow you to check-in on your credit score multiple times per day. You will be able to see quickly if there is a new line of credit opened in your name or anything that's affecting your credit score, like a missed payment. It's also important to review your actual credit report with TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. The three main bureaus are currently offering free weekly online credit reports post-Covid at www.annualcreditreport.com.
The less personal information you share on social media the better. Scammers are out there, and they are looking at your address, the names of your kids, birthdays, and other personal information you could use to create passwords for your accounts. Thieves are also watching for your vacation posts to break into your home while you're away. This may sound like doom and gloom, but remember, you might not actually know all the friends on your friends list.