Ask an Expert: Protect Yourself from Financial Fraud
There has been extensive reporting in recent news about data breaches, cyber security, Social Security numbers stolen, identity theft, fraud, scams, credit monitoring services, credit reports, credit scores, etc. It can be tricky to navigate, so here’s the Readers Digest version:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Equifax has agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle the lawsuit from their September 2017 data breach that exposed personal info of 147 million people.
- The FTC reminds us to be weary of scammers calling, emailing and setting up fake websites claiming to be related to the Equifax data breach in an attempt to get your personal info and/or collect a payment.
- Capitol One announced their data breach has exposed the personal info of 106 million of its credit card customers and applicants in the U.S. and Canada.
- Scammers are calling and pretending to be the Social Security Administration saying your Social Security number has been suspended. They then ask you to confirm your number and/or send money in order to “reactivate” it.
Whether or not you were affected by a data breach or scam, be proactive about monitoring your personal credit information. Now is a great time to check your credit report, free of charge, using www.annualcreditreport.com. Here’s why it’s so important and tips for doing it.
You and your spouse (if applicable) are allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. So, to keep tabs on our credit all year long, I pull one report every two months. I set reminders in my cell phone that alert me to remember. Example:
- January = My Experian report
- March = Husband’s Experian report
- May = My Transunion report
- July = Husband’s Transunion report
- September = My Equifax report
- November = Husband’s Equifax report
This helps us keep tabs on our personal and shared accounts, monitor for fraud and correct any errors.
Keep in mind – the data breach is a frenzy for scammers who will call, text, email and create fake websites pretending to be credit monitoring companies that can help “protect you” for a fee. Just remember, a legit site will not ask for a credit card number or your full Social Security number. Equifax will ask for the last six digits of your social security number and your last name to tell you whether or not your information was compromised. Sign up for free credit monitoring available to victims of these data breaches. Also know that the government will never call you to ask you to confirm your Social Security number. If you are contacted, hang up and report it to the FTC at: www.ftc.gov/complaint.
By: Amanda Christensen, Utah State University Extension associate professor, (801) 829-3472, Amanda.email@example.com