It is always a good time to re-evaluate various security and safety practices we have in our daily lives, both in the digital and physical world. One of the areas that I advise folks to take a look at, especially during their early home searches, is how to protect their credit from any fraudulent actions by unsavory characters. There are several ways protect yourself and your family.
Here are a few tips I recommend that could help you streamline the process!
1) Freeze Your Credit: One effective approach to protecting your credit is to request a security freeze with all three nationwide credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This action will prevent anyone from opening up a new credit card, a new line of credit or any financial accounts in your name. A security freeze, which can be unfrozen at the owner's discretion, is designed to prevent the information in your credit file from being reported to others, such as credit grantors and other companies. But don't fear, it is not frozen forever! If you do need to grant access to an approved lender or creditor, you just need to submit a request to the credit agencies to temporarily lift the security freeze, which can be done online for a nominal fee. To determine the methods and fees for placing, requesting a temporary lift or removing a security freeze, visit any of the reporting agencies websites listed below.
2) Get Alerts When Packages are En Route: The holidays are coming soon so lots of packages will be coming in and out of your home, so don't let your guard down. Neighborhoods around the country are reporting criminals are following UPS, FedX and US Postal trucks and stealing packages off front porches. Many online retailers, including Amazon.com, allow consumers to receive alerts the progress of packages, including when it has arrived. That way, if you are not home, you can arrange for a neighbor or friend to pick it up for you. Of course, you can always pay a little extra to request a signature, so that you are present when your package arrives.
3) Place Vacation Holds on Mail & Newspapers: This is probably the oldest one in the book, but bears repeating. The USPS requires a three day minimum hold for your mail, but it is pretty easy to do so online here. If you are still receiving a newspaper, check online to see how to set up a vacation hold. If you don't want to receive all the back issues, most newspapers are happy to donate to a library or school nearby. The less you broadcast to potential identity thieves, the better.
4) Use a Shredder: Put this one on your shopping list today! You can find affordable, dependable shredders for around $50 and it will prove to be a worthwhile investment for years to come. You will need to get into the habit of shredding incoming mail and documents that may contain sensitive account or social security information. Think of all the credit card applications, bank statements (you can get those online), and even request for donations, which may have an account number that an identity thief would love to get his hands on. If your household is eco-friendly, then you will have more for your compost or recycling bin each time you empty your shredder.
5) Try a Password Vault: Nowadays we all have dozens, maybe hundreds of passwords. It is impossible to keep them all in your head, but we should know better than to write them down. It is tempting, when Google prompts asking to store them for you, but the cloud may not be the safest place for your private information. However, having Google store passwords for those websites with no personal data is not a bad idea. But there is another way. I like to advocate for Access Manager, which is a free desktop (not cloud) program allowing users to store unlimited passwords, with dual encryption on their desktops. You need just one password to access the vault. I recommend you share the vault password with one close family member, spouse or even put a copy in a safe deposit box in case you do forget that one important password. There are also premium versions of Access Manager available but unfortunately at the time I wrote this blog, it was not available for Apple products.
6) Check Your Credit Score Annually: The months quickly turn into years, so make an effort to put this at the top of your list. In most states, if you have been denied for credit, your credit check request may be free. Check your credit history and obtain your score with Equifax here. Additionally be sure to review your bills and statements on a regular basis before any fraud gets out of hand.
7) Copy the Contents of Your Wallet: This is one of my favorites and I even make this a habit for myself on the first day of every new year. I empty out my wallet on photo copy machine and create a hard copy of the fronts and backs of all the credit cards, club memberships and gift cards that I carry on a regular basis and store it in a safe place in my home office. If my wallet gets stolen then I have one document to refer to with all my account #s and 800 numbers to cancel my cards.
8) Block Spam Calls: Tired of getting bogus calls and not sure if they may actually get through to your loved one sometime? Most landlines and all smart phones have a way to permanently block spammers from making follow up calls. Once you have identified a bad number, go to the settings on your phone (follow the instructions by your manufacturer) to block these chiefs!
For additional information and advice on identity theft, you can call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Hotline toll free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or visit their website here.
If you would like to see housing data for Boulder County, there are plenty of statistics to check out in such as "Days on Market", "Total Inventory" and "Newly Listed Homes". We track all these market statistics for Single Family Homes (SFH) for most of neighboring towns on a monthly basis, including Louisville, Erie, Lafayette and Superior. Check out latest market statistics here. At Louisville Realty Associates, we have the experience, energy and depth of knowledge to help you list your home for the best price. You can reach us anytime at @firstname.lastname@example.org.