Find Out & Learn The 7 Things Hackers Don’t Want You To Do
One of my biggest fears, for my clients and for myself, is having any kind of personal information compromised. This is more devastating than you can imagine! When this happened to my mom a few years ago, <insert the read here, and direct reader to the blog on my website> I thought my ears were going to blow off from anger. There was a complete lack of cooperation from the credit card company. Surely, it was obvious that my 82-year-old mother in Southern California was not buying auto body parts and paying for bail bonds in Houston! But the hackers were smart. They got enough information to make the credit card company believe that they were talking to my mom. The credit card company was not giving in. It took months to get the issue resolved. In the interim, Mom received threatening letters from the credit card company, collection calls on Sundays, and her credit score plummeted.
I recently attended a talk on cybersecurity. The speaker got our attention when he went to a Russian hacking site (free to the public) and flashed the social security numbers, birthdays, and recent addresses for Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Donald Trump, Jared Kushner … and the list went on and on! Then our speaker did a random check on the audience – most of us had been breached! How did we figure that out?
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 a random check with clients and friends and most people have been “pawned.”
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 even being looked at.
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:
- 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 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. My next step is to change every password that I have. 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®