How to Protect Your Money After the Equifax Data Breach

If you haven’t already, the first, best, and fastest way to protect yourself from the Equifax data breach is to place a security freeze on your credit files at the big three credit reporting bureaus.

Consumers should apply the freeze to Equifax, and also to Experian, and TransUnion. For extra security, you can apply a freeze to a fourth, lesser-known consumer reporting agency, Innovis.

You can do this by contacting each bureau either through their website or through the customer service number. There may be a fee for placing the freeze.

Equifax stated it would not charge for credit freezes for those affected by the breach.

The massive data breach involves the potential compromise of the personal data of 143 million consumers, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and birth dates.

In addition to the credit freeze, there are four more steps to put an iron wall around your money.

Activate Two-Factor Authentication

In today’s world of digital crime and internet fraud, two-factor authentication is an important extra layer of safety. It requires not just a password but a second element, such as a code texted to your smart phone, which you have but a crook can’t easily get. Set up and activate two-factor authentication on all of your existing mobile banking, savings, credit card, home equity line of credit, and other financial accounts that offer it.

Maximize Your Mutual Fund Security

Although the Securities and Exchange Commission requires mutual funds companies to identify, detect, and respond to red flags of identity theft, unlike FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions, these investment firms aren’t required to restore assets stolen by hackers.

You should call your 401(k) plan provider and other investment managers to learn their fraud protection policies, as they can vary from company to company. If your investment company doesn’t explicitly reimburse stolen funds, consider moving your money elsewhere.

Place a Fraud Alert on Credit Reports

A fraud alert is different from a credit freeze. The fraud alert is a notice on your credit report that warns both current and prospective lenders that they must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before granting credit, such as a new credit card or loan, or extending credit on an existing account.

You need to request a fraud alert at one of the big three credit bureaus, which will then pass it on to the other two, and separately place another alert with Innovis. An alert lasts 90 days. If you’re an ID-theft victim, you can get a fraud alert that stays in place for seven years. But you may be better off with the 90-day alert, because that allows you to get a free credit report from each of the four credit bureaus each time you renew the alert, which means you can get up to 16 free reports per year.

Secure Your Smartphone + Email

How you manage your smartphone and email accounts can be critical to your online security. Your phone is where all your second-factor text message codes are sent and where your mobile banking and other money apps live. Email is where your financial institutions send alerts and password reset links.

Here’s how you can make your phone and email harder targets:

  • Activate two-factor authentication on your email account. When you log into your email on an unfamiliar computer or phone, you’ll get a text with the necessary code to complete login. A hacker would need that code, too, but can’t get it without your phone. Better yet, download an authenticator app such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator, which generates these codes without the need for texts, which can be intercepted.
  • Use a password management app such as LastPass on your computer’s browser and on your phone. LastPass creates and plugs different passwords into each of your accounts when you log in, so you don’t have to invent and keep track of dozens of passwords. This eliminates the temptation of using the same password for multiple accounts, which can provide a master key for hackers.
  • Never click unsolicited, unexpected, or suspicious-looking links sent to you by email or text. They could download malware capable of spying on your phone or personal computer activity.
  • Follow other security tips for your phone’s specific operating system using the FCC Smartphone Security Checker, a customizable interactive tool.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from SherpaThe best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today! 

Article Source:  Jeff Blyskal for Consumer Reports

5 Ways to Stop Identity Theft

As a lot of us have had to find out the hard way, identity theft is a real threat and it can be damaging to your finances and personal life. Make sure you’re doing all you can to keep yourself safe. Here are 5 things you can do to stay protected.

Have secure passwords.

Stop using the word ‘password’ as your password. And don’t use your mother’s maiden name. Create a complex password that only you can remember. For instance, maybe you’re a big Alabama football fan. Use initials, symbols, and numbers to create your password. For example: *BamaWins3020!  Nobody’s going to guess that one. According to howsecureismypassword.net, it would take a computer millions of years to crack that password.

Shred sensitive information.

Your weekly routine probably involves bringing your garbage can out to the street on trash day. Make sure when this happens, you’re not throwing anything away that an identity thief could find valuable. Anything that contains account numbers, banking information, or social security numbers would be a gold mine for a thief. Get online, buy a paper shredder and put it to work. This is the easiest way to help yourself stay protected.

Check your credit report.

If checking your credit report isn’t something you do regularly, you should make it one. If a thief opens up an account in your name, this will affect your credit score and that can be an easy red flag to detect. Try annualcreditreport.com.

Be careful with the internet.

Cybercriminals can get your information a few ways, one of which is phishing. Phishing is when a cybercriminal defrauds you of sensitive information by posing as a legitimate company that you trust. Make sure you never click a link in an email that’s asking you for personal information. You’ll never get an email like this if you didn’t request it, and even then, contact the company and have it verified. Also, make sure you’re not doing sensitive things like logging into your bank website from a coffee shop’s wifi. Wait until you get home to check your account balance.

Monitor your accounts.

It’s important to login to your online banking often, and review each transaction. If you find something that wasn’t purchased by you, contact your financial institution immediately. It’s very important to monitor your accounts regularly and keep a close eye on your money.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

What To Do When Your Debit Card is Compromised

Have you ever gotten a letter in the mail from your bank saying that your account may have been compromised? If you’ve ever had this happen before, it elicits all sorts of questions. Was there fraudulent activity on my account? Who ‘may have’ compromised my card, and when? Am I liable financially?

First of all, getting a letter like this doesn’t necessarily mean there was a fraudulent transaction. Your bank is simply following a standard precaution. What it does mean is there was suspicious activity associated with your debit card. Your card number and name might have been obtained by an unauthorized source, usually at a retail location with a card processing system targeted by hackers.

Secondly, your bank may not even know where and when the card was potentially compromised. Mastercard, Visa and other card companies don’t usually release this information to the bank unless there’s a massive breach. Card companies simply notify the bank of suspicious activity, and your bank follows its standard policy – which is usually to cancel the card number and issue a new one.

Thirdly, even though you don’t know if, when, and where the compromise might have occurred, it’s important to do your own research. Besides credit card companies, banks also monitor account activity. This offers another level of assurance, but you can never be too cautious. We should always keep a close eye on our bank accounts, especially since small, ordinary transactions can be easily overlooked. Hackers often test a stolen card number this way before making major purchases or withdrawals (like dipping a toe in the water to test the temperature before plunging in). So if you do receive a letter like this in the mail, immediately check your account activity. If there are any unauthorized transactions, call the bank and report them.

Lastly, examine your habits for anything that is leaving your card number vulnerable. Have you been using your debit card more than usual? If you make frequent electronic purchases, use a credit card – which at least won’t risk your personal checking and savings accounts getting wiped out.

Along with this, consider the following precautions:

  • When making online purchases, always look for the secure “lock” icon.
  • Listen to your instincts if anything looks fishy about a website you’re entering personal information into.
  • Clear your web browser history frequently. Don’t let your computer save passwords, and delete cookies.
  • Don’t respond to emails requesting verification of personal information. Because of the risks, your bank will never ask you to do this.
  • Be skeptical of application downloads and updates, even if they look legitimate. Scammers are great at creating imitations that install spyware on your computer.
  • Use a quality anti-virus and anti-malware program and make sure it’s enabled to run routine scans.

If you have a First Financial Debit Card – Enroll it in Visa Purchase Alerts today! You’ll get an email each time your Debit Card is used over an amount you set, when your card is used outside the county, or when your card is used to make a purchase online or over the phone.

 Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

3 Ways to Ensure Cyber Safety During Tax Time

Income Tax File Meaning Paying Taxes 3d Rendering

The IRS is now officially open for business as tax season gets underway. Here are three ways you can protect yourself over the next few months as you manage important and sensitive, financial documents.

Stay on secured networks: As with other financial transactions, make sure to only e-file your taxes (or view private documents) on a protected Wi-Fi network. You may be tempted to work from a coffee shop or the library, but remember using a public server can make you an easy target for cyber thieves.

Beware of IRS emails: The Internal Revenue Service will never directly reach out to you; if you receive a fraudulent message report it immediately to phishing@irs.gov. Use caution when dealing with these and be sure not to click on web links or open suspicious email attachments.

Set strong passwords: Most of us may think that choosing a password such as “password” or “123456” is an obvious mistake but according to TIME, these are in fact the most popular password picks. Review their list of these commonly used passwords and make necessary adjustments to yours to ensure your information stays safe online.

First Financial members get discounts on TurboTax products – get started today!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

6 Things to Do if Your Identity is Stolen

Smartphone in hand, concept of data protection, blue

The best line of defense against identity theft is prevention, but when that fails you need to handle the situation correctly and swiftly. If you notice any mysterious purchases or your bank contacts you about confirming charges, your account may be compromised. If you believe that someone has stolen your identity, minimize the damage by following these steps.

1. Identify and close the account in question

The most common (and sometimes the only) way to discover compromised accounts is noticing fraudulent charges after they’ve posted. When you become aware of the situation, contact your financial institution as soon as possible, dispute the charges, and ask to either lock or close your account.

2. Look for other unauthorized charges

Next, you need to pull up your other accounts and scan old statements for additional charges you don’t recognize. If you find any questionable charges, call your financial institution and alert them of the problem. You may have to put a lock on a number of your accounts if your identity has in fact been stolen.

3. Review your credit report

When assessing whether you’re a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, your last stop should be your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to at least one free credit report from each credit reporting agency every year. Request your reports and look for any account that you don’t recognize.

4. File a report with the FTC

After you have a pretty good handle on the extent of your problem, you need to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You only need to do this if you think that your identity has been stolen. The FTC doesn’t handle credit card fraud, so if only one account was touched you probably aren’t a victim of identity theft and don’t need to submit a report.

5. Set up a fraud alert

A fraud alert puts a red flag on your credit report and notifies both lenders and creditors that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. All you have to do is call one of the three credit reporting agencies to place a 90-day alert on your reports. Don’t worry about any potential stigma that could come with this, it is a rather common practice nowadays.

6. Open new accounts and move forward

Most financial institutions advise opening up new accounts following identity theft, even those that might not have been compromised. After all is done, make sure that you implement preventative measures going forward. There are plenty of ways to make yourself a less likely target and they all take less work than recovering from being a victim.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

5 Things You Should Never Keep in Your Wallet

walletMore than 40% of identity fraud cases stem from a lost or stolen wallet or purse, according to insurance company Travelers’ claim data. If you’re carrying around these things in your wallet, you’re likely putting your identity and finances at risk.

1. Social Security Card

The #1 thing you should never carry in your wallet is your Social Security card.

“Your Social Security Number is the most vital piece of information for identity thieves, and the damage resulting from identity theft can impact your finances for years to come,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of consumer protection at credit reporting company, Experian.

If someone gets your number, he or she can use it to apply for credit in your name, file a tax return and claim a refund, or get a job and earn income that’s reported to the IRS — which will create problems for you at tax time, according to the Social Security Administration. For these reasons, losing a Social Security card can be devastating. While you can get a new Social Security Number, you must have evidence that someone is using your current one. However, some government agencies and businesses might still associate you with the old number — even after you make the switch.

2. Birth Certificate or Passport

When you go out, it’s best to leave your birth certificate and passport at home.

“Like your Social Security Number, these items contain some vital, personally identifiable information, and losing these will make it all too easy for thieves to steal your identity,” Bruemmer said.

Unfortunately, more than half of travelers surveyed by Experian said they carry their passports in their wallets. If you’re traveling overseas, opt to leave your passport locked in the hotel safe rather than keeping it with you while you’re out on the town.

3. Extra Credit Cards

A survey by Experian’s ProtectMyID identity service found that 47% of consumers don’t remove unnecessary credit cards from their wallets before traveling. Carrying numerous cards doesn’t just put you at risk on vacation, though. It’s also a dangerous habit.

“If your wallet is stolen and you have eight credit cards in it, that means you will have to cancel eight credit cards, dispute with eight different card companies if fraud does occur, as well as reset any autopay you had for those eight cards,” Bruemmer said. “The more cards you carry, the more opportunities you are giving a thief to steal your money or information, and the more work you are putting on yourself to reestablish accounts after a theft.”

It is recommended that you only carry your main credit card and perhaps a backup one. Only carry retailer cards in your wallet when you are headed to those specific stores. And make sure you have a record of your credit card account numbers and contact information for each card issuer stored at home, in case a card is stolen.

4. PINs and Passwords

Some people write down their debit card PIN and passwords for accounts in case they forget them and carry them in their wallets. However, this information should always be left at home in a secure place.

“If someone has access to your bank PIN or financial account passwords, they can easily steal money from your accounts or make purchases under your name,” Bruemmer said.

5. Checks

If you prefer writing checks to using a debit card, avoid carrying your entire checkbook around with you. Otherwise, thieves have easy access to your money in the event that your purse or wallet is stolen.

Checking account fraud can be especially difficult to resolve, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. You should report your stolen checkbook to the police and keep a copy of the report to submit to any merchants or financial institutions at which your stolen checks were used.

Unfortunately, putting a stop payment on the checks that were stolen probably won’t be enough to fix the problem. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, you’ll likely need to close your account to prevent further damage.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in our Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston for Go Banking Rates, https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/things-never-keep-wallet/