To say that identity theft is rampant is an understatement. Reports of personal information breaches have become common place in the last few years. Many have suffered the pain and fear of having their personal information stolen, including yours truly. Despite the efforts to protect my personal information, intruders have gotten hold of my personal information and attempted to illegally use it for their own gain. Many questions came to my mind after discovering that my personal information had been compromised. How did it happen? Who did it? Did I do something wrong? Is it going to happen again? How can I keep it from happening again? Several emotions began to flood my mind. The strongest emotions were anger and vulnerability. How dare someone steal my personal information! They had no right to do such a thing! How much information did they get? What are they going to do with this information? Am I safe? Take my word for it, it is not a good feeling.
In 2015 my wife and I received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that they needed more information to process our Income Tax Return. The letter included information about the form that was used to file the return and the fact that my wife and I were receiving a refund. The first red flag was the fact that we had not filed our taxes yet. How could I be getting a refund if I had not filed my taxes yet? The second red flag was the fact that the letter stated that we filed our return using a 1040 EZ form. Since we owned a home, had a business, and itemized deductions we have not used a 1040 EZ to file our taxes in over 20 years. In fact, I do not remember the last time we used that form. I immediately contacted our tax preparer, and he told us that our identity may have been stolen (as a result we have to use a special PIN number every year to file our taxes). What?! How did this happen, I wondered?! I later found out that we were a victim of a recent breach. Our medical cards had been used to obtain our personal information. We thought we had taken every precaution to protect ourselves. In fact, we did. But we could not anticipate or protect ourselves from a breach. We did everything right, but we wanted to know what we could do to keep it from happening again.
After being identified as victims of the breach, the company gave us two years of free credit monitoring. Credit monitoring services can be a preventative measure to keep your personal information safe. These services will alert you if they notice suspicious activity related to your personal information, so you can be aware of it and take action if necessary. Some companies charge for this service, while other companies offer it at no charge. What can you do to protect your credit information when you suspect suspicious activity or before anything happens? There are two options that can be used to protect your credit information, a credit lock and a credit freeze. A credit lock is free from the two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax. It is a preventative measure that allows you to lock and unlock your credit report to make sure it is accessed only by those (especially lenders) you wish to have access to it. A credit freeze has a fee associated with it unless you are a victim of ID Theft and have filed a report. A credit freeze is used when you think your credit and/or personal information have been compromised and requires the use of a 10 digit PIN to freeze and unfreeze your information. Click here to get more information about credit locks and credit freezes. Hopefully, you can prevent the pain and fear caused by having your personal information compromised. Not to mention the endless hours to repair a situation that you did not even cause. Click here for updates on credit freezes effective 9/21/18. All the best!
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