Retail security breaches have continued to make news with reports of over 110 million customers’ financial and personal information potentially being compromised.
While those stories may be yesterday’s news, the ramifications will be long lasting and require consumers to be proactive in protecting their financial data. But what can John Q. Public do?
Some tips are evergreen.
For example, check statements often (and contact your financial institution if charges you don’t recognize appear). Don’t respond to texts or e-mails you don’t recognize. Don’t give out personal information. And use common sense when it comes to financial opportunities – if it appears too good to be true, it probably is.
But wait: There’s more you can do.
If you’re one of the unfortunate hundreds of millions affected, many retailers are offering a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. Go to the retailer’s website to receive an activation code for these services. Those who sign up receive a complimentary copy of their credit report, as well as daily credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and personalized assistance access.
Meantime, if you worry about being compromised, change the PIN on your credit or debit card. Change account passwords, too, and don’t use “123456,” “111111,” ”password” or anything else that made the list of the worst passwords of 2013.
In addition, call one of the credit bureaus and ask them to place a one-call fraud alert on your credit report. Don’t worry about contacting the other two – the one you deal with is legally required to contact the other two. The one-call fraud alert remains in your credit file for at least 90 days and requires creditors to contact you before new accounts are opened or credit lines on existing accounts are increased.
Also consider a credit freeze with the credit bureaus, which shutters your credit reports; no new credit applications can be initiated in your name without your knowledge. By doing so, you receive a personal ID number you can use to “thaw” your credit as needed. Existing lines aren’t impacted by the freeze.
Finally, keep safe by continually educating yourself.