Time to sign up for fraud monitoring?
With the recent revelation that Equifax experienced a data breach from May to July of this year, and personal information for over 140 million people was at risk during that time, is it finally time to pay for some form of fraud monitoring service? The answer is "yes" it's time to sign up for a monitoring service, but "no" you don't have to pay for it (yet).
Due to the data breach, Equifax now offers a free year of their TrustedID Premier Service that offers the following benefits:
If you're like me, and you're nervous about signing up for free trial periods only to find that you are billed for a subscription to the service later on, here's what their website has to say regarding this concern:
Keep in mind that identity theft services will not prevent someone from stealing your identity. The primary value in these services is that you will receive quicker notification of any suspicious activity. The sooner you become aware of fradulent activity and take action to stop it, the less damage you will have to clean up.
Sign up for the free monitoring service:
Go to the website https://trustedpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html to determine if you’re eligible for the offer
Enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number to find out if you're eligible for the offer
3. Assuming you are eligible, you should see the following notification
4. Click on the enroll button to sign up for the service. In order to verify your identity for the monitoring service, you will have to provide your legal name, date of birth, social security number, mailing address, etc. Once you have input all of the required information and submitted it, you should receive the following message:
Not interested in the Equifax offer?
If you don't want to sign up for the Equifax service (because they were the cause of the breach, or that the service is only free for one year), then consider Credit Karma's free monitoring service, or one of the paid subscription services offered by reputable companies and financial institutions.
What else can you do to prevent identify theft? The USA.gov website provides the following list:
- Contact the three credit reporting agencies to request a freeze of your credit reports.
- Secure your social security number (SSN). Don't carry your social security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
- Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online.
- Collect mail promptly. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Enable the security features on mobile devices, especially if you have contacts, banking websites and applications saved.
- Update sharing and firewall settings when you're on a public wi-fi network. Consider using a virtual private network, which can give you the privacy of secured private network.
- Review your credit card and bank account statements. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards, to prevent "dumpster divers" from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Create complex passwords that indentity thieves cannot guess easily. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases.
- Review your credit report once a year to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free from Annualcreditreport.com
In summary, if you aren't already using some form of credit monitoring service, now would be a great time to start. Monitoring services (no matter how much you pay for them) will never be enough to fully protect your financial identity, but combining this type of monitoring service with the fraud prevention steps outlined in the USA.gov list shown above will greatly reduce your risk.
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