Steps to Protect Your Credit
To monitor your personal information and data security, we recommend taking a proactive approach. The following are steps you can regularly take to stay on top of your personal credit.
Regularly Check Your Credit Report
Federal law allows you to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit-reporting companies every 12 months. These include TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. We recommend ordering one report every four months from one of these agencies. This will help you keep tabs on your credit by reviewing a different credit report three times per year.
You may order your free reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. According to the Federal Trade Commission, they are the only authorized website for free credit reports. To order:
- Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request a free report.
- Call AnnualCreditReport.com at 1-877-322-8228.
- To mail a request, go to AnnualCreditReport.com/GettingReports.action
for instructions and mailing address.
Whichever route you choose, you will need to provide your name, address, social security number, date of birth, and answer a few questions about your credit history (which are meant to be difficult) to verify your identity.
Once in hand, review your report, making note of any accounts or activity you don’t recognize as that could have come from identity theft. As your investment advisors, we’re happy to walk you through how to handle any items of concern. Likewise, visit IdentityTheft.gov for suggested steps to take.
Monitor Your Accounts
Monitor your existing credit cards, bank accounts, and insurance statements for any charges you don’t recognize. Keep in mind that some thieves make small charges (<$100) on many accounts in order to stay under the radar.
Don’t just throw away, but shred all documents that contain any personal information. Many outside companies, such as office supply stores, offer this service.
If Your Data is Compromised
- If you are compromised, consider placing a credit freeze (or security freeze) on your files through each of the credit bureaus. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score but does make it more difficult for a thief to open an account in your name. Visit this FTC webpage for more information
on credit freezes: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov/databreach for more suggested steps you can take if your data was compromised.
Repeat for Your Spouse
If you're married, consider taking the above steps for both you and your spouse.
Stay Vigilant at Tax Time
According to the IRS, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use regular mail, telephone, and email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals with scams.
- The IRS will never call or email you to discuss your return. The agency only communicates with filers via physical mail.
- If you receive a call from someone that says they are from the IRS, just hang up.
Contact Your CFP® for Help with Credit Theft Concerns
If you want help, your CFP® should be able to help with any credit monitoring or credit report concerns you have. He or she can guide you to reputable solutions for not only fixing but also proactively monitoring your credit.
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Napa Valley Wealth Management is not affiliated with any of the above-listed entities.