1) Get a copy of your credit report. You should do this on at least a yearly basis, but quarterly would be even better. Fortunately, Americans have the right to access their credit reports online for free at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Do not be fooled by imitators! There are other sites out there that charge you for this service. This is the only site that is government approved and free. You are entitled to one report from each of the big three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once per year. There may be a fee for additional reports or for getting your credit score. But you can time it so that you only order one report from one of the credit bureaus at a time, and stagger receiving a report throughout the year so that you get three free reports each year. (Note: each report is different, and each credit bureau may have different information to report. So if you stagger the reports, you may not be getting as complete a picture of your credit at any one time.)
As the holiday season approaches and online shopping gains momentum, it becomes more important to protect your personal information from identity theft. Below are a few ways you, the consumer, can protect yourself from identity theft and fraud this holiday season.
Once you have a credit report, review it for accuracy and any suspicious items. There should be information on how to report fraud or correct information. A credit report in a divorce can be useful not only to dig up valuable information, but also to help a client clean up his or her credit or plan a budget and financial future in life post-divorce.
2) Monitor your accounts. This includes all financial accounts (banks, mutual funds, credit cards) as well as social media and email accounts. You should also monitor your phone and utility bills, which people often forget to do. If you see any suspicious activity, notify the provider immediately and follow their guidelines for protecting yourself.
As a preventative step, review the monthly statements as soon as your receive them. You should also set up security features and alerts or notifications if they are available options. You can also set up a Google Alert with your name to see when information is posted about you on the internet.
3) Opt out of credit offers. Credit offers are not only annoying but they can also potentially expose you to identity theft. Don’t just throw those pre-filled, pre-approved applications away!! Shred everything with your name on it. Purchase a shredder for home use, or keep a box of documents to shred and then take them to a shredding service regularly. There are lots of services out there that are affordable, and it’s even better if they shred your documents right in front of you.
To opt out of credit offers, go to www.OptOutPrescreen.com, or call 1-888-567-8688. If you have children, you may consider adding them to the list as well. Note that the opt out is only good for five (5) years, so you will have to do this periodically.
At Alexandra Geczi PLLC | Family Law, we work with clients to take steps to protect themselves financially. We offer these sorts of tips as well as other resources to clients. We also work with financial planners, CPA’s, mortgage specialists, and other financial professionals to help transition our clients through divorce. We believe that keeping the client informed is key, and this is just one of the many ways we keep clients at the heart of our practice.
Visit us online at www.FamilyLawDFW.com to learn more.