Financial Self-Defense in the Digital Age
by Barbara Faron
August 14th marks National Financial Awareness Day. In honor of that, I wanted to pass along some information that may be useful. In recent times, there have been numerous data breeches regarding various form of identifying information. Many have involved some form of financial information that when compromised or leaked, can wreak havoc in one’s life. Because of that, we have all become aware of the need to protect ourselves from this rapidly growing threat to our economic well-being.
According to an article entitled, “Guard Your Social Security Number” in the September 2017 issue of AARP Bulletin, in 2016 fifteen million people were victimized by identity theft. Protecting your social security number is critical in the effort to foil thieves. The article makes the following recommendations:
- Leave your card home.
- When asked, don’t tell. Very few organizations have a legal right to the information.
- Guard the final four digits which are truly unique to you. (First five numbers represent when and where your card was issued).
- Place a freeze on your credit file.
- Report problems immediately.
In addition, monitor your credit reports by taking advantage of the federal law requiring each credit bureau to provide you with a free credit report each year. By spacing the three requests over one year, you may monitor activity at regular intervals. The official site for this purpose is: www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Equifax (Equifax.com) 800-349-9960
- Experian (Experian.com) 888-397-3742
- TransUnion (transunion.com) 888-909-8872
In the case of identity theft, reach out to the following organizations to alert them:
- Federal Trade Commission (identitytheft.gov) 877-438-4338
- File a police report and notify credit-reporting bureaus and banks
- Report Medicare fraud to 800-447-8477
- Tax refunds: IRS 800-908-4490
- Social Security Administration (socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber) 800-772-1213
We live in an age where it is easy to purchase goods online with the swipe of a screen or in store with a swipe of a credit card. Goods are purchased quickly and much private financial information is shared freely. Be your best advocate for protection by taking the time to monitor your accounts and guard your information carefully. Your livelihood depends on it!