Technology has come a long way but with all of these advancements, there’s the downside of vulnerability. And that vulnerability is exactly what people who are up to no good are counting on to take advantage. So we must do what we can to protect ourselves and our money.
Most credit card companies offer some sort of credit score and basic identity theft service. This service provides you with an updated credit score, usually once a month, and will alert you to any suspicious activity related to your social security number and other personal information like your phone number or address.
Well I recently received an alert saying that my social security number and some other info of mine had been compromised. Specifically, that it had been discovered on the Dark Web.
If you’ve never heard of the Dark Web, it’s a hidden part of the internet that you can’t find with a regular internet browser like you and I have. Privacy? Sounds great right? No! All kinds of illegal activity happens there like the sale of guns, illegal drugs, and even social security numbers.
Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to my email and password combos being compromised as a result of a data breach and by now, you probably aren’t either! Some well known data breaches were Target, Experian, Yahoo!, Linkedin, basically all social media platforms, and even the U.S. Government!
But this is different. I’ve been working hard to pay off my debt and raise my credit score. I don’t want someone to take my identity and benefit from my hard work and I’m sure you don’t either!
So at this point we all need to keep an eye out and make sure we’re doing what we can to safeguard our information and our money. Because hackers don’t want us to live our best lives or better yet they do, and want to benefit from it.
If you received a similar alert, here’s what you should do:
- Check and monitor your credit report and report any fraudulent activity.
- Monitor your bank accounts and credit card accounts. Place a lock on any debit and credit cards you aren’t actively using.
- Change your passwords on email and other accounts that have been compromised. Set up two-factor authentication where possible.
- Request a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit profile with all 3 major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). Placing a fraud alert requires companies to to verify your identity (usually by calling you) before granting new credit in your name. You only need to contact one of the major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your account and they will notify the others and a fraud alert lasts for a year. A credit freeze on the other hand, limits access to your credit report altogether. This makes it even harder for someone to open a new account in your name and that includes you, and remains in place until you lift it. So keep that in mind before applying for new credit card or loan. Both of these are free to do.
- If you haven’t already, create a mySocialSecurity account with the Social Security Administration. By doing this you claim your social security number and benefits before someone else gets an opportunity to.
- If you believe someone has used your social security number to file a tax return in your name, report it to the IRS here or by calling 1-800-908-4490.
Here are some additional steps you can take to help protect your personal information and your money:
- Avoid using public WiFi
- Use a password manager to keep your strong passwords secure
- Stay alert by monitoring your credit reports and bank accounts
- Shred sensitive documents before throwing them out
- Remove your personal information from Google, Facebook, and other sites
Stay safe out there in these internet streets!
Official FTC Identity Theft Website: https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/