Simple Precautions to Stay Safe Online
In the wake of the Equifax breach, we thought it would be helpful to share a few cheap and simple ways to protect yourself online. At The Johnston Group, we always require a verbal authorization in order to move any funds on your behalf…one more way we are looking out for your bottom line!
Make Sure Your Credit Report Looks Correct. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and request your free credit report. Each major credit bureau allows you to access your credit report once per year, which means that every four months (e.g., Transunion in October, Experian in February, Equifax in June) you can review your credit report and look for mysterious accounts that may have been unknowingly opened in your name.
Freeze Your Credit. If everything looks okay, go to https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html and set up a free 90-day fraud alert. You’ll want to select an initial security alert which lasts for 90 days. This means that if someone (including yourself) tries to access credit by opening a new account (such as a mortgage, car loan, or credit card) in your name, you must give verbal permission and answer some security questions to “unfreeze” the account. Don’t forget to set a recurring calendar reminder so that you can do this each calendar quarter. Ten minutes of total time invested each year for quite a bit of peace of mind is a very nice tradeoff!
Review your account balances periodically. The last two suggestions make sure that only legitimate credit accounts exist in your name and protect you from new ones being created without your knowledge. However, it is still important to review your existing accounts on a regular basis to make sure there are no suspicious charges. Also, be careful when clicking on e-mail links asking you to enter your username or password. For instance, if an existing service provider contacts you and you believe it is legitimate, it is always best to open a new internet browser and visit the homepage so you can enter your username and password directly, just to make sure you’re entering information on the correct website and not a fake one (that you might otherwise be directed to if you had clicked on the original e-mail link)!
For those who want to go a step further, we recommend investigating the following applications:
Empower Finance offers a free app on iTunes called Empower – Money Management which is a mobile first app designed for users on the go who want to track their finances all in one place: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/empower-money-management/id1136397354?mt=8
Quicken offers a nice app that’s been around for a while and is mainly known for budgeting but also offers a convenient place to view all your accounts at once: https://www.mint.com/
Good luck and stay safe!