Dec. 20, 2019 | Updated 11:21 AM ET
As we read in the news all too often, consumers need to be knowledgeable and vigilant about protecting their personal information from cybersecurity criminals.
As consumers, we are ultimately responsible for knowing the warning signs and getting the information we need to detect and prevent fraud so we can better protect ourselves from becoming a victim.
What types of information can these criminals get access to? Unfortunately, the information that has been compromised ranges from credit card numbers, social security numbers, passwords and birth dates. All things that, if put into the wrong hands, can create problems for us.
Good news. We can all take steps to protect ourselves. And, in light of the recent data breaches, you can use our 7 Steps to Secure Your Credit to keep you even more prepared:
- Take advantage of the free credit monitoring that companies may offer, if you have been involved in a data breach.
- Monitor your credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you do not recognize. You can easily change your notification alerts for your credit card in order to see charges as they occur on your account.
- Periodically order a free copy of your credit report. Each of the three major credit reporting bureaus must provide a free copy of your credit report each year via a government-mandated site: annualcreditreport.com.
- Monitor your credit reports for accounts or activity that you don’t recognize. If you see something suspicious, it could indicate identity theft.
- Consider placing a security freeze on your credit data. This freeze will prevent ID thieves from applying for credit in your name. Just note that, to freeze your credit data, you will need to pay the credit reporting agencies a small fee to have the credit data locked and inaccessible to third parties. To unlock your credit—if, for example, you need to apply for a loan or mortgage—you would need to pay the credit bureaus another fee to unfreeze your credit information.
- Place a temporary fraud alert on your credit file, instead of a security freeze, with one of the credit bureaus. Lenders and service providers would be required to contact you for your approval before granting credit in your name. These expire so they would need to be renewed every 90 days.
- Consider a credit monitoring service. Please keep in mind that credit monitoring services do not prevent thieves from using your identity to open new lines of credit and from damaging your good name for years to come. The most you can hope for is that credit monitoring services will alert you soon after an ID thief has stolen your identity.