How safe is your personal information? In light of recent data breaches of several major, recognizable companies, common identity safety precautions such as fraud alerts may not be enough to protect you and your personal information and account numbers. While fraud alerts can help protect against new accounts being opened in your name without authorization, they can’t prevent identity thieves and hackers from accessing your existing accounts.
“Although fraud alerts have long been recognized as one of the strongest methods of identity protection, they simply aren’t enough,” says Trey Loughran, president of Equifax Personal Information Solutions. “Existing account information like credit card numbers are vulnerable to identity thieves even with an active fraud alert. And the longer it takes to detect identity theft, the costlier the damage that can be done.”
What can you do to protect yourself and your existing credit accounts from identity thieves and hackers?
- Streamline your wallet. Only carry the cards that you absolutely need, and keep other cards in a safe location or lock box. Never keep your PIN written down in your wallet.
- Use unique passwords. If you have the same password for all your accounts and one account is breached, all are compromised. Consider changing your passwords every six months. Also, your dog’s name and your street address are NOT good passwords. Try to come up with a mix of letters, numbers, and characters that would be almost impossible to guess. If you can’t remember the password, try a password manager like 1Password.
- Review your account statements and credit report regularly. The first sign of unauthorized account access will be strange activity. Don’t wait for the financial institution to contact you regarding a data breach. Stay aware of what’s going on with all of your accounts. You can access your credit report at annualcreditreport.com for free once a year. Services like Equifax Complete will provide daily credit monitoring, as well as alerts if your personal information is found on suspicious trading sites.
While organizations determine the best ways to implement stronger infrastructure security measures to protect consumer data, you can act proactively to control unauthorized use of your personal information and minimize your exposure to financial damages and future risk.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.