Protecting Your Credit Identity
Here are some steps to take to insure your accounts are safe.
Nashville, Ark. – With the recent breach in credit identity through Equifax and the upcoming holiday season, many people are wondering just how safe is their personal information. Are there some steps to take to insure your accounts are safe?
Equifax is one of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) that financial institutions and lending agencies use to determine your ability to pay back a loan. They collect information regarding your credit history and provide it upon request to the lender.
If you think your identity (personal information) has been hacked, you should consider freezing your credit. To freeze your credit, you must contact the three credit reporting agencies. Equifax at 1-877-576-5734; www.equifax.com, Experian at 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud, and TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com. When you freeze your credit, it doesn’t mean you can’t use credit. It means the company must contact you before a line of credit is allowed. For example, you want to buy a new car or furniture and open a credit line to pay for these items. You must okay the line of credit with the reporting company before they will provide any information including your credit score.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, you should report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.identitytheft.gov or phone 1-877-438-4338. You should also file a report with your local police. Close the account which has been hacked. Contact creditors where false charges have occurred.
Other things you should do, as a consumer, on your accounts include:
- Monitor all your accounts and statements. Keep a close eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements. Look for charges or withdrawals that you didn’t make. Contact the bank or lender to report false charges.
- Check your credit report regularly. You can receive one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Spread them out over the year and check one every four months. The correct website is www.annualcreditreport.com other websites may charge a fee. Your credit report is free, but there may be a small fee to get your credit score. Monitor the report for errors or signs of fraud. If you see suspicious activity report it to the credit reporting bureau immediately.
- Guard your personal information and PINS. Do not give out your social security number, bank account numbers, personal identification numbers, etc. to anyone who calls you asking for that information. Keep your personal information secure at home and when shopping.
- DO NOT CALL lists. Never give out information over the phone unless you initiated the call or are certain that you are talking to a reputable person. If someone claims to be a relative or from your bank – verify their identity. It’s okay to hang up and then call that person to verify the identity of the caller. The National Do Not Call Registry is a free, easy way to reduce telemarketing calls. To register, visit www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. Don’t open email messages that look suspicious.
- Shred mail and documents. Shred anything that might have your personal financial information on it. Shred credit card offers, old bank records, etc. Call 1-888-567-8688 to opt out of unwanted junk mail. You can also visit the website at www.optoutprescreen.com.
- Keep devices secure. Do you shop online? Have you used a mobile app to check your account balance? Do you receive email messages from your credit card company? Make sure you keep virus software up to date. Log-out of accounts as soon as you are finished. Password protect your phone, tablet, or computer. Use strong passwords.
It makes me sad that we, as consumers, have to go to these extreme measures to protect our identity. However, in today’s world it is a must.
For more information on protecting your identity or for information regarding credit reports or managing credit, contact the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.
Recipe of the Week
This recipe is great this time of year. It uses apples and is great for diabetics. The recipe comes from the “Living Well with Diabetes” program. If you are interested in participating in the “Living Well with Diabetes” program, contact me at the Extension Office at 870-845-7517.
Crisp, Crunchy Apple Slaw
2 medium granny Smith Apples, cut into matchsticks
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon sugar substitute or sugar
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss gently. Serve immediately. Yields: 8 servings.
Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 19, Fat – 1 g., Sodium – 0 mg, Carbohydrate – 5 g,
Fiber - 1 g, Protein - 1 g.
By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
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