Almost You is NOT You – Debit or Credit Card Compromised?

So you went shopping for the holidays and now you found that your debit or credit card number has been exposed in a data breach.  The problem is you can be vulnerable to this type of fraud whether you are shopping online or in person.  Here is a checklist provided by the Federal Trade Commission of what to do if your debit or credit card number is compromised: Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one. Review your transactions regularly.  Make sure no one misused your card.  If you find fraudulent charges, call the fraud department and get them removed. If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new card number. Check your credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Do not throw good money at stolen accounts. Your credit may be compromised if an ID thief gets your personal and/or financial information.  Protect your credit by addressing any form of identity theft.  For other checklists on various types of information exposure, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at https://www.identitytheft.gov/info-lost-or-stolen.html.       Read More

Almost You is NOT You – Online Login or Password

Had your online login or password exposed in a data breach?  Here is a checklist of what to do, provided by the Federal trade Commission: Online login or password Log in to that account and change your password.  If possible, also change your username.  If you can’t log in, contact the company.  Ask them how you can recover or shut down the account. If you use the same password anywhere else, change that too. Is it a financial site, or is your credit card number stored?  Check your account for any charges that you don’t recognize. Do not throw good money at stolen accounts. Your credit may be compromised if an ID thief gets your personal and/or financial information.  Protect your credit by addressing any form of identity theft.  For other checklists on various types of information exposure, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at https://www.identitytheft.gov/info-lost-or-stolen.html.     Read More

Almost You is NOT You – Social Security

Had your Social Security number exposed in a data breach?  Here is a checklist of what to do, provided by the Federal Trade Commission: IdentityTheftFTCgov   Note that in some cases the Social Security administration may issue a new Social Security number, but that can create new problems as follows: The credit bureaus may combine the credit records from your old Social Security number with records from your new Social Security number. A new Social Security number may give you a blank credit history, making it difficult for you to get credit.  While a new number may erase the bad credit an identity thief gave you, it may also erase the good credit you had. Just because you have a new Social Security number does not mean it is immune from theft.  The new number can be stolen, just as the old one was. Despite the problem of bad credit on your old Social Security number, you may be better off to keep it rather than to request a new number, depending on the circumstances. Your credit may be compromised in a data breach if an ID thief gets your personal and/or financial information.  Protect your credit by addressing any […] Read More

Almost You Is Not You – Data Breach Drill

Not feeling like yourself today?  Or feeling a little less ‘flush’ than normal?  If you have been the victim of Identity Theft, the Federal Trade Commission has a data breach drill.  This online resource gives you a streamlined plan to address the problem. It is a one-stop online checklist that you can customize to your problem, depending on what information was lost or exposed—Social Security number, online login or password, debit or credit card number, bank account information, driver’s license information, children’s personal information.  Their idea is that recovering from identity theft is easier if you have a plan. The free online checklist is available at https://www.identitytheft.gov/info-lost-or-stolen.html.   Read More

Play Your Credit Cards Close to the Vest

If Data breach is not bad enough, criminals can also gain access to your credit card accounts the old-fashioned way:  from you.  Here are tips from the US Secret Service on how to protect yourself against credit card fraud.  Many of them are common sense, and common sense can save you a lot of cents. It is critical that you notify your bank or credit card company immediately if you lose your card. It may prevent someone else from using it illegally. Remember to get your card back after purchasing goods or services. Do not leave the card in hotel rooms or unnecessarily exposed for long periods of time. The number can be copied even if the card is not taken. Retain all carbon copies of your receipts when making a purchase and retain receipts from ATM withdrawals. If you don’t get a billing statement on time, notify the credit card issuer immediately. Check billing statements carefully upon receipt to make sure all charges are yours. Errors or changes that don’t belong should be reported as soon as possible. Do not put your credit card account number on checks used to pay your monthly bills. The credit card agency can […] Read More

Free Annual Credit Report

Have you been to the doctor lately?  Had your car serviced?  Did you clean the gutters?  There are certain things you should do on a regular annual basis.  Checking your credit report is one of them.  Furthermore, it does not cost you. Consumers can check their credit report for FREE once a year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. This website gives you access to all three credit reporting companies.  Note that while your credit report is free, there is a cost involved to get your credit score. It is a good idea to make sure the information in your credit report is accurate and up to date.  This helps monitor for blended files, where someone may have a similar name or social security number, and helps monitor for identity theft. If you do find an inaccuracy, you can dispute errors with the credit reporting agencies.  There is more information provided by the Federal Trade Commission with sample letters at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0291-disputing-errors-credit-reporting-companies.   Read More

Annual Check-Up on Your Credit Report

Keep an eye on your financial statements, and check your credit report annually for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.  If you want your credit score there is a fee, but it is free to look at your credit report from all three reporting companies so you can check to make sure the information is accurate. It is a good idea to monitor your credit report annually because as my colleague, Zach, points out, sometimes there are ‘blended’ files where a person’s name is similar to your name, or has a similar Social Security number.  And of course there is the possibility of identity theft. If you do find an inaccuracy, you can dispute errors with the credit reporting agencies.  There is more information provided by the Federal Trade Commission with sample letters at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0291-disputing-errors-credit-reporting-companies.   Read More

Recovery from ID Theft

Recovery from Identity Theft is not easy, but the Federal Trade Commission has tried to aid consumers by writing letters for them…all you have to do is fill in the details. Letters Ask a Business to Remove Fraudulent Charges From Your Existing Accounts Ask a Business to Close a New Account Opened in Your Name Ask Credit Reporting Companies to Remove Fraudulent Errors on Your Credit Report Ask a Business to Block Information on Your Existing Account Ask a Business to Block Information on a New Account Ask a Credit Reporting Company to Block Information Get Copies of the Documents the Identity Thief Used Stop Calls and Letters From a Debt Collector Memo from FTC to Law Enforcement [PDF]   Read More

Who’s Wearing Your Credit?

Fashion Week starts this week in New York, and with identity theft trending, someone else could be masquerading in your good credit, compromising your purchasing power. Credit determines your ability to buy items like a house, a car, a student loan.  Bad credit can limit your ability to get more credit, and it can raise the cost of a loan (the interest rate) and lower your chances to get the loan in the first place.  Bad credit is not a place you want to be, especially if you did not get to enjoy any of the things charged to your account along the way! The Department of Justice has a pneumonic to help you avoid becoming the victim of identity theft: SCAM. S is for “Stingy.”  Be stingy about giving out your personal and financial information. C is for “Check.”  Check your accounts regularly. A is for “Ask.”  Ask for your free credit report once a year (see below). M is for “Maintain.”  Maintain good records of your banking and financial information.  You should know what should be in there…and what should not. If you want to monitor Tommy Hilfiger, you can watch Fashion Week live online at http://mbfashionweek.com/live If […] Read More

Masquerading in Your Good Credit

Who is going trick-or-treating dressed as you—and so out of season!  An identity thief could be treating himself at the expense of your good credit.  The Department of Justice has a pneumonic to help you avoid becoming the victim of identity theft: SCAM. S is for “Stingy.”  Be stingy about giving out your personal and financial information. C is for “Check.”  Check your accounts regularly. A is for “Ask.”  Ask for your free credit report once a year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. M is for “Maintain.”  Maintain good records of your banking and financial information.  You should know what should be in there…and what should not. To view the complete article from the Department of Justice, visit their website at: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html Read More