Protecting Your Credit and Identity

Updated: 9/25/18

In light of the recent Equifax data breach, you may be wondering what steps you can take to protect your credit. With the mass influx of blog posts and multiple companies offering paid-for services to “lock” your credit, we understand it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Luckily, depending on where you live, it can be easy and inexpensive to begin adding layers of security surrounding your credit and identity.

Fraud Alert

A good place to start would be to place a fraud alert on your credit report, which can make it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. A fraud alert stays on your report for at least 90 days and during this time you can still open new accounts; however businesses must verify your identity by way of contacting you before it issues any credit. 

Issuing a fraud alert is free and easy to do, and unlike a credit freeze, you only need to contact one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) for it to be applied across all of them. A fraud alert would be a sensible option for younger consumers who may want to open a new credit card or apply for a mortgage in the near future, as opposed to initiating a credit freeze.

Credit Freeze

For more security, a credit freeze can be placed on your credit account, which is a proactive way to protect your credit and personal information. Lenders will be blocked from accessing your credit while the freeze is in place. If you wanted to apply for a loan, for example, you would either need to lift the freeze (which removes it for a short amount of time) or remove it entirely. As of May 2018, it is now free to add, lift, and remove a credit freeze across all bureaus and states. See the table below to check your state’s rules:

 PennsylvaniaMarylandNew York
Time Span7 yearsPermanentPermanent
Fees for Adding a FreezeFreeFreeFree 
Fees for Lifting a FreezeFreeFreeFree
Fees for Removing a FreezeFreeFreeFree

Once you’ve decided to activate a credit freeze, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus.  You can begin the credit freeze process either over the phone or online through each of the bureaus’ websites, which will take you step-by-step through the process (see below). At the end of the process you will be supplied with a PIN, that differs from agency to agency, so be sure to keep the number somewhere safe in the event you need to lift or remove the freeze later on.

Transunion:

  • Online
  • By phone: 1-888-909-8872
 

Equifax:

  • Online
  • By phone: 1-800-685-1111 (NY residents please call 1-800-349-9960)
 

Experian

  • Online
  • By phone: 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742). When calling, press 2 and then follow prompts for security freeze
 

You can also request a credit freeze by mail. If you would like us to provide you with the materials and instructions to do so, please contact your financial planner at 215-348-9393. If you are not a current client, please email Julie Picariello.

Credit Monitoring Services

If you don’t want to implement a fraud alert or credit freeze, and would rather opt for a constant credit monitoring service, there are a myriad of companies that offer such products.

Most basic services will include a credit report, alerts about changes in your credit, monitoring the web for misuse of your social security number or driver’s license number, and typically a $1 million identity theft insurance policy.

Additionally, there are more expensive and robust plans that will monitor banks and credit unions to detect new checking or savings accounts in your name and detect fraudulent cash withdrawals and balance transfers from any investment or retirement accounts.

Be sure to read the fine print before signing up for a credit monitoring service to understand what it includes and doesn’t include. Also, remember that there are many free steps you can take to add layers of protection surrounding your credit and if you are proactive and vigilant regarding your credit, a paid-for service may not be necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Blyskal, Jeff. “Is Equifax’s Free ID Protection Service Good Enough?” Consumer Reports. N.p., 6 Oct. 2017. Web. 07 Nov. 2017.

Henson, Sarah. “What Is the Difference Between a Credit Freeze and Fraud Alert?” Experian. N.p., 15 Sept. 2017. Web. 16 Nov. 2017.

“How Do I Place a Security Freeze on My Equifax Credit File?” Experian. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2017.

“Locking Your Credit Report.” TransUnion. N.p., 18 Oct. 2017. Web. 16 Nov. 2017.

Disclosure:

Marshall Financial Group, Inc (“Marshall Financial”) is an SEC-registered investment adviser with its principal place of business in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.   This newsletter is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to Marshall Financial Group’s investment advisory services.  Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.  References to market indices are included for informational purposes only as it is not possible to directly invest in an index. The historical performance results of an index do not reflect the deduction of transaction, custodial, and management fees, which would decrease performance results. It should not be assumed that your account performance or the volatility of any securities held in your account will correspond directly to any comparative benchmark index.

This newsletter contains certain forward‐looking statements (which may be signaled by words such as “believe,” “expect” or “anticipate”) which indicate future possibilities. Due to known and unknown risks, other uncertainties and factors, actual results may differ materially from the expectations portrayed in such forward‐looking statements. As such, there is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this letter will come to pass. Additionally, this newsletter contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party incorporated herein, and take no responsibility, therefore.

For additional information about Marshall Financial, please request our disclosure brochure as set forth on Form ADV using the contact information set forth herein, or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure web site (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov).  Please read the disclosure statement carefully.

We’ve built Marshall to be a home for realizing your financial future. No matter what life brings, our advisors will be with you to provide the advice you need to stay on track to see your aspirations become reality.