I received a message from my health insurance company that someone had hacked their system and my identity, including my social security number, was compromised. At this point, it seems like I’m always getting a notification from someone that my balance has been compromised and I don’t skip a beat on my default reply.
I regularly check my credit report
This should be a no-brainer. You should check your credit report at least quarterly to make sure it is accurate. I check mine every two weeks. Yes, I know that is an exaggeration. I can check my credit report online through my bank as often as I want free of charge. When I balance my budget, I’ll take a look. I know Chase and Bank of America offer this service, but I’m sure there are others out there too. Oh, and before you (rightly) knock on me for banking at a big bank, I was doing banking at a local bank in the small town I grew up in. That bank was sold to Great Western, which was then sold to Washington Mutual, which was then sold to Chase. I should have always switched banks, but I’ve had the same account number for 23 years and I like it. I’m terrible at change management.
I’m placing a fraud alert with a credit bureau
Equifax describes it as follows: “A fraud notification encourages lenders and creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity before issuing loans.” Filing a fraud report with one of the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union) will ensure that the others receive the fraud report. There is no need to trigger a fraud notification on all three. A fraud alert actually worked for me once. I received a call from T-Mobile asking if I would buy cell phones. I said happily, “No, please hunt this person down to arrest them.” I feel like it didn’t happen, but can I dream right?
The bad news is that fraud notifications expire after 1 year (unless you file a police report because your identity was actually used, in which case it is 7 years). Honestly I don’t understand why I can’t turn it on permanently, but I remember turning it back on every year. It used to expire after 3 months to make them feel better.
And if necessary … freeze credit
If you want to drop an atomic bomb, put a freeze. Per Trans Union: “A loan freeze will prevent lenders from reviewing your credit in order to open a new account. Imagine you have a padlock on your credit report. “I’ve never done this before because turning it on and off is a hassle. You will need to contact all three credit agencies to place a freeze and contact all three again to lift the freeze. You might say, “But you’re not using any credit, so who cares?” You’d be surprised at all of the stupid places that take your credit away. Would you like to change the cellular provider? They will pull your credit. To move to a new flat? Yes, you too. Put an electricity bill in your name? You will need it. Staying at a campsite for more than 3 weeks? We do that sometimes and yes they want your credit even if you pay in advance.
This time I dropped the atomic bomb to try it out. I turned on a freeze. We just switched carriers and I don’t have any moves in my future (other than Texas?) Or long term camping so I hope it doesn’t turn into a nightmare but I’ll let you know.
Maybe sign up for credit monitoring?
Pooh. I get frightened when I say that. I’m NOT a fan of credit watchdogs for two reasons. 1) I can monitor my balance better than they can. 2) I had a credit monitoring company when my credit was compromised about 10 years ago. They say they will help you clean up the chaos of the criminals. Here’s what they’re not telling you, they can’t do it alone. You’ll have to talk to them on the phone when they call, wherever your credit has been used, to answer questions about your credit they can’t answer. Don’t assume this is hands-free. If I have to do it anyway, why on earth should I pay someone else?
That said, I did it this time … mainly because it was free through my health insurer who lost my information. Credit monitoring has changed in the 10 years since I’ve had it. They provide interesting information about where your information is and how it moves on the “dark web,” but otherwise I’m not particularly impressed. BUT my child loan has also been compromised (thanks to the health insurance company!), Including their social security numbers, and that is more difficult for me to monitor so it is helpful in this case. Well … until the credit watchdog agency loses its information. Come on, we all know this will happen at some point.
Pooh. What a mess friends. What a mess. I hate that we have to be so vigilant, but this is the world we live in. Good luck!