You may think an identity theft hacker may not notice you. That’s not true. The ways identity thieves pick their targets are more about accessibility. They don’t care about your financial situation. Cybercriminals look for weak spots in personal financial security and privacy they can exploit for profit. Too often, the way we find we’ve been financially hacked is when credit report errors are revealed. It’s never at a good time, either. Most often it occurs when we’re about to seek credit for a home mortgage, car or personal loan.
Finding a Credit Report Error: How Did Cybercriminals Find You?
Social media is one of the main sources for cybercriminals looking for identity theft victims. Most of us became at-home workers or unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At-home boredom led to more online communications and social media use than usual. The economic crisis resulting from so much unemployment also led to increased activity among cybercriminals. The two factors became a powder keg for unsuspecting social media users.
Financial Data is Gold to Cybercriminals
The original “hack” may be your personal data. Hackers can use it or sell it to identity thieves. It’s available on government websites and even “secure” websites, like Equifax®. In 2017, hackers accessed the personal information of more than 147 million Americans in the Equifax database.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) later leveraged a $700 million fine, but the consequences were more far-reaching. Americans don’t know who to trust with personal information. The Cloud only added to the confusion.
Two Things You Should Do
- If you’ve been ignoring those change-your-password popups, stop ignoring them. The first way to reduce your risk of identity theft is to change passwords. Like most, you’re probably using easy-to-remember passwords at several sites. Don’t.
Develop strong passwords. Although it’s important to develop passwords that are easy to remember, follow these guidelines:
- Be Unique: develop words with uncommon
sequences that combine at least 8 – 10 upper and
lower case characters, numbers and symbols.
- Avoid Personal Information: do not use your birthday,
family or pet names.
- Different Passwords for your Accounts: using the
same password puts all of your accounts at risk.
- Store Passwords in a Safe Place
Other ideas include:
- Don’t click on email links; even friend’s links. Send them an email asking if they sent the link. Check out 10 Tips to Prevent…Email Hack
- Don’t drop sensitive mail in a mailbox for pickup. Take it directly to the post office.
- Keep important documents (including your social security card) in a locked drawer or lockbox.
- Write checks only when necessary.
- The next thing you should do is check your credit report. Now.
About Credit Reports
You are entitled to check your credit report every 12 months for free. Late payments, bankruptcy, bills turned in for collection… These can harm your credit for years. More important, make sure your credit report is accurate and errors are corrected immediately.
There are 3 steps to checking your credit report:
- Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and select the “request your credit report” button.
- Choose reports from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Questions will be asked and you may need to consult financial records to answer them. This keeps your credit report access limited to you.
- Review each requested credit report online and check for credit report errors.
Common credit report errors include:
- Accounts – Inaccuracy, closed accounts reported open, false delinquencies/dates
- Data – Erroneous information, multiple entries, old debts that should be removed
- Identity – Wrong name, address, social security number, accounts you did not establish, someone else’s information
How to Correct a Credit Report Error
If you encounter a credit reporting problem, don’t wait to resolve it. Flitter Milz, P.C. is a national authority in consumer protection law. We offer a free evaluation of your credit report problem and can discuss effective ways to dispute with the credit bureaus. Contact our team today to find a fast and affordable resolution.
The risk of identity theft is higher during economic downturns, but your diligence can protect your financial security. Call 866.259.0326 or contact us to learn more.