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  • Art George

Protect Your Identity

On August 16, 2021, T-Mobile confirmed that they had a data breach and that attackers made off with the personal data from 53 million past and current customers.

What can you do to protect your identity even if you are not part of this particular hack?

Check your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.Com. A free annual report is available from each bureau (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) on Check each report for errors or signs of fraudulent activity, such as the presence of a credit card or loan that you never opened or a collection account for debt that you don't owe. Put this on your calendar so that you take advantage of this free opportunity each year. (Due to the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, all the three major credit bureaus are offering a free credit report to consumers each week until April 20, 2022.)

Your credit report shows any credit cards or loans you have open (like car, student or personal loans) as well as the balance on those accounts. Whether you have a lot of debt or no debt at all, it is important to keep tabs on this report. (Rowan, L (2021, March 29). Free Credit Reports Extended Until April 2022, ForbesAdvisor.)

One of the most effective ways to block identity thieves from opening accounts in your name is to put a free security freeze on your report from each bureau. When a freeze is in place, a creditor cannot access your report in response to an application for new credit, thwarting crooks. If you want to open a credit account, you can temporarily lift the freeze.

I completed this task yesterday for myself first and then I assisted my spouse. It took approximately 35 minutes to complete. Make sure you keep track of the various user names, passwords, pins and security questions. The process is a bit different for each bureau. To get started:

a. Type "Equifax Freeze Credit" into your search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo)

b. Type "Experian Freeze Credit"

c. Type "Transunion Freeze Credit"

I have a couple friends who are in cybersecurity and they shared best practices to minimize your risk of being hacked:

- Always keep your computers up to date

- Back up your data on a regular basis

- Use two-factor authentication for sensitive data (financial and personal)

- Never reuse passwords

- Use complex passwords

- Use a password manager (i.e. Lastpass, Keeper, 1Password)

- Change your home router password from the default (Wouldn't have thought of that one!)

Last, Dave Ramsey from Ramsey + recommends Zander Identity Theft protection. You can learn more at to see if you think this service would be right for you.

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