The internet has made our lives more convenient and efficient in many ways, but one of the unfortunate realities of today’s internet-based society is the issue of identity protection. Recently, Equifax, a credit monitoring company, announced that hackers had stolen personal information regarding millions of Americans. We are always looking out for our Clients and one of the ways we can do this is by helping you improve your cyber security. The Retirement Planning Group does not use Equifax for any services and is not connected to Equifax in any way. However, we do want to make sure our Clients are aware of important issues and are given information on how to protect themselves against these damaging events.
There are two main types of fraud to be concerned about:
NEW credit account fraud – this is when fraud occurs by creating NEW accounts in your name, damaging your credit and possibly leaving you accountable for debt.
EXISTING account fraud – this occurs when an EXISTING account is taken over, putting your current assets at risk.
Are your accounts managed by The Retirement Planning Group at Risk?
No, this breach does not affect Charles Schwab. At TRPG, information security is a top priority and we make every effort to protect your personal information.
What are your next steps?
1. Credit monitoring services– You could sign up for free monitoring services that actively monitor your financial accounts. One option is to use Equifax. It’s free, but keep in mind it is for a limited time. Make sure to read the fine print. There are also paid credit monitoring services to utilize as well. LifeLock is a good example.
2. Freeze your credit file – You may reach out to credit agencies (Equifax, Transunion, Experian and Innovis) and request your file be put on a “security freeze.” This will prevent any new credit accounts to be opened in your name, but do note that there may be a $5 or $10 fee associated with freezing your credit. If you need to open an account you can unfreeze your accounts at any time, but unfreezing can take some time so make sure you plan accordingly.
3. Monitor your credit file – You are allowed one free credit report per year. Set a calendar reminder to do this at the same time every year. There are also some free and reputable services and apps that can monitor activity in real time such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
4. Check your computer security software – Make sure that you have the latest updates. It is easy to let this slide. Don’t let it slide. This is very important as it protects against viruses and keeps your personal information secure.
5. Be password smart – Use different and strong passwords for all of your logins whether it be for your bank, computer or social media sites. Be sure to include upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Also, make sure to store these passwords in a safe and secure place. There are several password manager tools available to help you be password smart. Last Pass is a good example.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Retirement Planning Group. We are here to address your concerns and help in any way possible. You can find out more information on how to protect yourself by reading a recent blog: Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft.