At This Rate, I’m Going To Have Free Credit Monitoring For My Entire Life

Sorry to make a joke about a serious matter but at this point, what else can we do when it comes to the security of our personal data? The latest apparent data breach comes from Capital One but what difference does it make if it’s a bank or retailer like Target, a travel company such as Starwood (Marriott) or even a firm like Equifax who probably knows more about us than we do? Whoever it’s from, that’s some part of your personal information out there on the “dark web.” Does anyone even know what that means? If it’s so dark and secret how come banks claim they can do a search to find your information? If your info is on the ones that they know about, imagine how much is on the really hidden ones.

I’d bet that by this point, some information about everyone is out there for those who know how to find it. Anyone’s Hilton or IHG accounts been hacked? Know where that information comes from? The really dark web.

What can we do? We’re obviously not going to stop using the internet, buying things online, traveling or using banks.

While every company says they take security seriously, what happens when they have a breach of their supposedly secure systems? Apparently, the only required penalty for allowing a customer’s data to be stolen is to provide a credit monitoring service for several years and offer to pay any expenses to repair your credit due to the breach.

Personally, I have additional coverage from my homeowners’ insurance policy to cover me for expenses due to identity theft, but I know that’s not something for everyone. Honestly, it was just included in our policy and at the time I didn’t think much about it. However, I’m now glad that I have it, just in case.

Credit Monitoring

Just this week, I had to decide if I wanted to take 10 years of credit monitoring from Equifax or a lump sum payment of up to $125. I took the possible $125 because I already have credit monitoring from prior breaches and if things continue as they are, I’ll get additional offers to cover me for more than 10 years.

While having your personal information like your Social Security number and driver’s license number out there, the big worry with those is someone opening up credit in your name without you knowing. With the credit monitoring services, I get emails almost immediately after I apply for a new credit card because a bank searches my credit report. I get additional notices when the new credit lines show up on my report.

Credit Freeze

If you’re anxious about having someone opening up accounts in your name, you could always freeze your credit reports. While this used to be a pain and often incurred a fee, a new law allows you to freeze and unfreeze your reports at your will. Here’s an FTC article that explains the new law.

Free credit freezes

Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.

How will these freezes work? Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.

Don’t confuse freezes with locks. They work in a similar way, but locks may have monthly fees. If you want a free freeze guaranteed by federal law, then opt for a freeze, not a lock.

Note that credit services can offer to “lock” your credit and charge you a monthly fee for the privilege. If you want the free service, you need to request a freeze, not a lock.

Note that the freeze must be lifted within an hour if requested online or by phone. So it’s still possible to freeze your account and only lift the freeze when you’re applying for a new card.

Free Credit Report

One thing you should always do is to regularly check on your credit report. The credit agencies are required to allow you to request a credit report once a year. The request has come from the website https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

From there you can request a report from one or from all three credit agencies. You can do them all at once, or you can get one every 4 months. It’s been a year or two (or three) since I’ve looked at ours. I gotta get on that! (Bonus points for getting that reference)

Final Thoughts

We all have to admit that there’s nothing we can do to keep companies from getting hacked and having our personal information out there for whoever wants to get it. The only things we can do are keep an eye on our finances and report any discrepancies as quickly as possible. Hopefully, not too much damage was done, and it can be corrected promptly with no residual effects.

This is the new normal. No system is unhackable. Remember Mission Impossible?

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I’d like to think it’s that hard to get my personal information online, but deep down I know it’s probably more like this:

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But what I fear it’s actually more like this:

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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