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Tips on Protecting your Identity Thumbnail

Tips on Protecting your Identity

As we head into the holiday season, I was reflecting the other day how much Black Friday has evolved over the last several years. When I think of the Black Friday of my youth, visions of crazed parents searching for the last Tickle-Me-Elmo or PlayStation 2 come to mind. Or Walmart and BestBuy parking lots overflowing into the surrounding store parking and lines out the door starting before midnight. Those visions have been replaced with FedEx & Amazon Prime delivery drivers making their 2nd or 3rd pit stop to your street in the last 24 hours. The world’s online presence is growing at a rate that is hard to imagine. Global online commerce is estimated at $6.3 Trillion (that’s with a T!) per year, 76% of U.S. adults shop online, and in 2022 over 87 million U.S. consumers made an online purchase on Black Friday.

With thousands of data breaches happening each year, the average U.S citizen’s information is on the internet whether we want to acknowledge that or not. This month’s newsletter includes a few quick tips to protecting yourself and your financial well-being while living in an ever-growing online economy.

  1. Freezing your Credit

Have you ever heard of someone mentioning they freeze their credit? What does that even mean? Simply, it means that you, nor anyone else, can open a new line line-of-credit in your name. If your credit is frozen with the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax), no one, including you, can open a new credit card or apply for a car loan, mortgage, home-equity line, etc. I find that by the time most individuals get to retirement age, they don’t have many credit applications. Even those who are purchasing new cars tend to be paying in cash at these 4%+ interest rates. Freezing your credit can help protect you from identify theft and credit theft, something that happens to over a third of Americans. To read more about freezing your credit at the three credit bureaus, you can visit the following websites:

  • https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
  • https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
  • https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/

Once your credit is frozen on all three sites, if you do ever want to apply for a line of credit, you’ll need to log back in and request a temporary lift of each freeze. For example, when we purchased our last home, I requested a 60-day temporary lift. After the 60-day period the system automatically reapplies your credit freeze.

  1. Online Monitoring Service

Have you ever Googled yourself? I did while writing this article and within a click or two I was able to find my name, my cell phone number, my address, my wife’s name, my wife’s sibling’s names, our parent’s names, addresses, and phone numbers, my registration as an investment professional with the SEC, and information regarding my CPA license. Do I love that? Not really. For those who wish to clean up their online presence, you can consider services like Delete Me.

www.joindeleteme.com is an online service that scans the internet for your personal and/or business data and then removes it from the largest data brokers online. This service is not free like the credit freeze but for those who want to be extra careful about their information on the internet, it is a service to consider!

Mark Rosinski, CFP®, CPA

Wealth Advisor

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