Things Hackers Don’t Want You To Do
Darn it Capital One! I liked you. I trusted you. I put my banking needs in your capable hands. I even referred you. How could they let this egregious breach happen? It doesn’t take long for the anger to turn complacent. I guess I will be seeing them in the long line of other cybersecurity victims.
If you know anyone who has had their identity stolen, then you know the restoration process takes hours and months of lost time. Add to that the frustration of dealing with an unsympathetic skeptic on the other end of the phone who will do everything they must to deny your claim. Let’s face it, banks and insurance companies are growing weary of the costs data breaches. We need to be proactive as consumers before this problem comes to bite us.
At a minimum, here are two things you need to do to protect your identity.
First, find out if you’ve been hacked. Go to this website: www.havibeenpwned.com, enter your email and find how many times you’ve been breached. It’s safe and you don’t have to sign up for anything. I’ve been doing random checks with clients and friends and most people have been breached.
Next, go to the websites where you’ve stored credit card information, and change your passwords to a strong password. Something like: IDontLike1Hacker!%$#@ Each website needs a unique and very distinct password.
That’s just triage.
If you really want to be safe, here are seven things you can do to do protect yourself.
- We can’t check our credit cards all of the time, so it’s good to get real-time information. Change your credit card settings to have a text alert sent each time you use your card. This is an easy thing to do and I recommend that everyone do it!
- Use Two-factor authentication. PayPal has it. Apple has it. Take advantage of this whenever you have the opportunity.
- As of September 2018, it is now free to freeze your credit. I’ll admit – this is a hassle. Anytime you want to borrow money, you’ll have to unfreeze your social security number first. What this means is that you will need to call the lender before you apply for credit, ask which credit bureau they use, and then call that agency. You can tell them how long you want the “thaw” period to be. For example, if you are car shopping you may wish to un-thaw for a month.
It is important that you freeze social security numbers for your minor children and elderly parents. Children, especially, are vulnerable targets because their precious little credit scores are not looked at during their youth.
When you go to the credit agency websites, don’t be intimidated by the fees that you see on the home page. Keep scrolling down until you find the tab that allows you to do this at no cost. Here is the contact information:
- www.Equifax.com. 800-525-6285
- www.Experian.com. 888-397-3742
- www.TransUnion.com. 800-680-7289
- Make sure no one is running up debt under your name. You can get a free credit report every 12 months from each of the reporting agencies. I like to use: annualcreditreport.com to check. I recommend that you spread out your requests over the three agencies and throughout the year so you can check your credit three or four times a year.
- If you know or even think that your social security number is at risk, the IRS recommends that you fill out an easy, 1-page Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039:
- Find the form at: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf
- In Section B – answer either:
(A) Yes, someone used your information or
(B) You don’t know.
It asks you to explain. All you have to do is write Equifax, Marriott, Target, Home Depot, Facebook, Yahoo.
- File the Form with the IRS.
- Continue to file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper, and attach the Form 14039
- Watch for any follow-up correspondence from the IRS and respond quickly.
- Subscribe to a Password Manager. It’s never a good idea to use the same password on multiple websites. With a password manager, you can have a unique and strong password for every secure website. I do not recommend using a free service; anytime something is free you are the product and not the customer. This is not the place to pinch pennies. I recommend PC Magazine as a resource to find the service that best suits you: https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp.
- AAA members have the benefit of free credit monitoring: https://www.aaa.com/ExperianIDtheft/.
I did 6 of these (I already have 2-factor authentication) and it took me 52 minutes. The bulk of my time was spent looking for and enrolling in a password protection program. I hope you will take the time to protect yourself too.
If you have questions or comments, please reach out. I would love to help you!
Barbara Norman, CFP®, ChFC®, CDFA®