Protect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself…
“How does this apply to credit?”
Daily clients come to me with inaccurate personal information on their credit report. At first glance it does not seem to be something that can affect your credit scores. When I start to go over the accounts with the client, far too often, they are claiming that they have never opened an account with said creditor.
This can be a case of inaccurate personal information holding you back because someone else’s credit is on your report. With the way the credit cycle works it is far too easy for something like this to happen. Since information is simply being input into a computer there is a ton of room for database errors. When the information goes from the creditor to the bureaus there is little to no human interaction with the account. Meaning that the reporting is rarely being double checked, if at all!
With his being the case it is extremely important for you to take every precaution possible to “Protect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself”. There a few things you can do to minimize the target on your back for others information to show on your report.
“What can I do to stop the madness?”
The first and easiest step to take to protect your identity is keeping all of your documents with your name on them in a safe place. I personally have a set of lockable filing cabinets in my home where I keep all of my personal information. You can also keep it in a safe.
This seems like an obvious thing to do without me suggesting it in the first place. You would be surprised at how I used to file my documents. I had a special place in my truck, right behind the driver’s side seat, where I kept my important documents. I felt that this kept them close to me without me having to worry about filing away my information each time I paid a bill or received a statement in the mail. Then I had my window broken out. All it took was someone realizing what information was in the back seat, and I would have lost my identity completely. After walking outside and seeing the small pieces of glass lying beside my truck I thought to myself… “What the hell was I thinking”…
That next weekend went out and bought a filing cabinet to store my documents in, I also took it one step further and bought a paper shredder. Anytime I had a credit card offer in the mail that I did not want to accept I shredded it. I immediately felt better about my identity but knew I had to take it at least one step further.
Protecting Your Identity Online
Protecting your identity online is becoming more important everyday. You can go about doing this several different ways and I suggest taking a few different approaches to make sure you are as protected as possible.
If you have one password for every online account that you use, you should consider changing each one to be something a bit different. If you have the same password for your bank account, email, and credit monitoring service you are making it as simple as getting an email address from you that will allow the thief to simply use the forgot password option to send your password to the email account the thief has hacked. Since most everything you sign up for online is either attached to a card of some sort or attached to your email, which we all know has WAY too much personal information attached to it, you do not want either of these things getting into the wrong hands.
Get Some Help…
Another option, I would suggest, is some sort of credit monitoring service that also protects your online identity. The website I am using is www.IdentityGuard.com . If for some reason you lose your credit card, Identity Guard will help you get a hold of who you need to contact to start the process of protecting and reclaiming your name. From police reports to helping you cancel cards Identity Guard has not steered me wrong in the past. Another added benefit is you will get an easy to read credit report to keep track of your accounts and if new information shows up that you do not recognize you will be ahead of the curve. Checking your credit constantly is going to keep you up to date on what is going on with your report and your identity.
Every marketing campaign has an opt out option. The credit bureaus have a marketing campaign that you might not even be aware of. The bureaus legally sell your information to creditors to make a quick buck and the creditor then has your information to market you accordingly. The problem with this, other than the obvious junk mail, is that now someone else has your information. Although the company the bureaus sold your information may be reputable you are spreading information to another source. If the wrong employee gets a hold of your information then you could end up seeing credit card debt and installment loans that you have never signed up for. By going to www.optoutprescreen.com and filling out about 2 minutes of information you too can opt yourself out of the bureaus marketing.
Freezing accounts means that you put a hold or a freeze on your credit report to where the bureaus can not allow new credit cards or new loans to be opened in your name. There are good things and bad things about doing this.
When you activate the freeze you are not allowing any new information to be put on the credit report. This is beneficial for someone who is not planning on opening new lines of credit any time soon. You can choose to “unfreeze” or “reactivate” the account at your discretion. You can choose to permanently remove the freeze, or to temporarily remove the freeze (if you are trying to get a loan).
If you are trying to build credit this is not the route to go. This is because you will not be allowed to open up new lines of credit, which is often the first step in building credit. Also the freeze, depending on what state you live in, can cost a few dollars. Reports state an up to $20 charge can be assessed to freeze the account.
I have heard several horror stories of clients freezing an account with the bureaus and being pitched different products and services. Basically you call for one thing and the person on the other side of the phone is trying to sell you another. Be aware that patience is a virtue when working with the bureaus, and …”You catch more flies with honey.” Being respectful and calm in your approach can help you get through the cycle of sales pitches quicker.
Even taking every action laid out in the above you are not 100% ensuring that your identity is protected. Take every precaution that you can to protect yourself and your identity. Just one piece of mail getting into the wrong hands can set you back credit score wise for months or even years. If you do not know How To Read A Credit Report you should learn how to so you can be sure to keep up with new information being reported to your credit report.