Nearly half of all Americans had their personal data, including Social Security numbers, exposed by Equifax. Adding insult to injury, Equifax then directed customers to a fake security site. Amazingly, it took three week for its CEO, Richard Smith, to lose his job. Other companies have had security breaches, too. Here are some steps to protect yourself from identity theft.
Security Freeze: You can freeze your credit, which will prevent others from opening a new line of credit in your name. But you can’t do this just with Equifax. You must freeze your credit at each of the three credit firms: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you apply for new credit, however, then you’ll have to unfreeze your credit reports.
Secure Logins: Passwords at financial sites (banks and brokerages) should be complex and unique. Never use the same password at multiple sites. Finally, employ two-factor authentication for your important financial login sites (you’ll need to call each financial company to set this up). That way when you log into a site from your computer, you’ll not only enter a unique password but you must also approve the login on your phone. Of course, this means you’ll need your phone each time you enter into a site.
Phishing: Hackers create emails that appear to be from a financial institution. The emails will ask you to login to your account to receive a statement or to examine a problem with your account. But the link within the email takes you to a fake site. When you enter your username and password, the hackers can log into the real site with your information. The lesson: never click a link to a site within an email. Instead, open your browser and go directly to the site you wish.
Is all this security a hassle? Unfortunately, yes. But firms like Sticky Password, LastPass, and Dashlane 4 will remember all your passwords and provide two-factor authentication.