Preventing Identity Theft
Last week, I was able to take a couple of days away from the office and attend a virtual conference for continuing education. While there were many great sessions, an Identity Theft and Cybercrime session presented by retired FBI Special Agent Jeff Lanza was full of useful information. He covered a lot in his one-hour session, and I wanted to share some of his tips in these weekly emails. The first area he focused on was Preventing Identity Theft and had the following top suggestions for protecting your information:
Sign up for e-delivery if possible, for financial documents and other sensitive information. When discarding papers that contains sensitive information, shred it using a crosscut, micro-cut or diamond cut shredder (AFG clients can bring documents to our office for secure shredding).
Create Social Security online account
Create your online account at www.ssa.gov to help prevent a criminal from filing for benefits. It is especially important for those eligible for Social Security benefits (over age 62), though you can create an account at any age to track your benefits online. It is important to complete this step prior to freezing your credit reports (see below).
Freeze credit reports (all four bureaus)
A freeze restricts all access to your credit and is a proven way to protect against new account fraud. Credit reports can be kept frozen indefinitely, but the freeze will need to be lifted to apply for any credit. When placing the freeze with each bureau make note of the process to unfreeze to avoid any issues when you need to access credit. A credit freeze can be done by phone, mail or online. Contact information for each bureau is below:
- Experian: (888) 397-3742 P.O. Box 9530 Allen, TX 75013 www.experian.com/freeze
- Equifax: (800) 685-1111 P.O. Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374 www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
- Innovis: (800) 540-2505 | P.O. Box 1640 Pittsburgh, PA 15230 www.innovis.com/personal/securityfreeze
- Trans Union: (888) 909-8872 P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016 www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
If you haven’t checked your credit reports in the last year, it’s a good idea to check them prior to freezing your credit. You can check Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union at www.annualcreditreport.com and Innovis at www.innovis.com/personal/creditreport.
Protection for children
If you have children, it is recommended to check their credit reports to ensure their information is not being misused. Criminals can use a child’s social security number to open accounts, apply for loans or rent an apartment. After you have checked, a freeze can be placed on their credit reports to protect them from fraud. If you are caring for an elderly loved one, you may want to do the same for them. Each credit bureau has instructions available for these situations.
There was much more covered in this session that I plan to share in future emails. These are just his top suggestions to prevent identity theft. If you would like more information or have a specific concern, let us know. As always, we are here for you. Please email or call if you want to set up a Zoom videoconference meeting or talk by phone.
Mary McCraw, CFP®
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