Five Action Items to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Cybercrime (and maybe increase your credit score in the meantime)
- Create an online social security account at SSA.gov
- Freeze your four credit reports
- Monitor your credit score
- Access your free credit report
- Enroll in e-delivery at any financial institution you have accounts
Create an Online Social Security Account at SSA.gov
This step becomes more important as you approach age 62 (the earliest age you can claim social security) and is critical if you are over that age. With the number of data breaches that have occurred, there is a good chance your social security number and other personal information is out there. With this information, a fraudster can claim social security and steal your benefit.
By creating an online account, it keeps your social security benefit information from being mailed out and keeps a criminal from being able to create a fraudulent online account with the SSA that they can use to subsequently claim your benefit when you are old enough to apply.
Freeze your Four Credit Reports
A freeze on your credit report will keep a criminal from being able to apply for a line of credit, loan, or bank account as the freeze must be lifted before a credit inquiry can be run. When you freeze your credit you will create a PIN that can be used to lift the freeze whenever you make a legitimate attempt to open a new account.
The four credit reporting agencies are:
- Experian – – experian.com/freeze
- Equifax – – equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
- TransUnion – – transunion.com/credit-freeze
- Innovis – – innovis.com/personal/securityfreeze
Monitor your Credit Score
Your credit score is what lenders will use when deciding on your creditworthiness and the rate of interest to charge on liabilities like a mortgage or a car loan. If a criminal successfully commits fraud it can have a dramatic impact on your credit score and that will directly impact the cost of any future debt you may need to take on.
By monitoring your credit score you can easily monitor that nothing is off while also allowing you to see how your month to month activities may be impacting your credit. Many banks will offer you a free FICO score or if you’d like to get more in-depth data you can download the Experian mobile app and activate alerts any time there is activity that impacts your credit score.
Access your Free Credit Report
Each credit reporting agency will allow you to access your credit report on a yearly basis at no cost. The credit report will give you detailed information on both your current and closed credit accounts including current balance, payment history, length of credit, and type of credit – all of which are valuable from a fraud prevention standpoint as well as a credit score optimization perspective.
If checking your credit report once a year is sufficient, you can download all four at once and compare them to ensure nothing is off. If you have reason to monitor your credit lines more closely, you can rotate amongst the agencies and download one quarterly.
Enroll in E-Delivery at any Financial Institution you have Accounts
One of the most common way criminals will access your personal account information is by simply stealing the mail from your mailbox. Financial institutions are required to provide you account information on a periodic basis that includes sensitive information that could be used to fraudulently access and steal your money.
An easy way to protect yourself from this risk is to enroll in e-delivery for every financial institution you have accounts. These days you can get more information than ever online or through a mobile app and this will help ensure your account information is protected.
Raymond James is not affiliated with nor endorses the services of Jeff Lanza.
Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James.