Financial Security Tips from a Government Watchdog Group
The federal Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection recently updated some of their documents surrounding identity theft and other financial scams. While digging through their publications library, I came across a guide targeted at helping older Americans protect themselves against these threats. I’ll link to the full document below, but I thought I would share an overview that may serve as a refresher for some and, for others, a jumping off point for further research.
According to their site, the mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for consumers by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. In the case of this publication, they’re seeking to empower all Americans to make the appropriate choices to protect their sensitive data and safeguard their credit profiles. Many of these tips have been the focus of previous posts on this Financial Insights blog, so I’ll be sure to link them when appropriate.
Review Your Financial Statements Regularly & Your Credit Report Annually
If you’re not the type of person who opens up every bill, checks it against your spending and then pays it immediately, we understand! Between opting into e-statements and automate payments, it’s so easy to go months at a time without even looking at some or all of your accounts. But this convenience could come at a high price, if you miss an unwarranted transaction that ends up being the beginning of a much more thorough theft. Likewise, most people only check their credit reports when they’re making a major purchase and applying for financing. However, you can access a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once each year. And it could really pay to do so, even if there’s only small clerical mistakes, your long-term credit health can depend on knowing that these documents are up-to-date and factual. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for the free credit reports.
Consider Fraud Alerts and/or Security Freezes
Employ An Identity & Credit Monitoring Service
For those unwilling or unable to actively monitor their accounts, their are services out there that will do it for you… for a fee. If you opt to go this route, be sure to carefully review what you’re paying for. It is also worth noting that these companies will not address inaccuracies in your credit reports, they simply let you know any time a change is made to your accounts. If that adds to your peace of mind, especially if you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, it may be well worth it.
The CFPB document (linked below) closes with a handy table where they summarize the benefits and limitations of each option and also include the contact information for the three credit bureaus, as well as ways to file complaints to them or find out more about identity theft and prevention.
As always, if are unsure about the content presented here, we can help! Our Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors are available and ready to address your concerns about this topic in a one-on-one conversation. To set an appointment, simply email us @ [email protected] Thanks for reading.
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