Planning matters

Another Day, Another Data Breach

The credit reporting agency Equifax announced last week that the Social Security numbers, birthdates, address histories, and other information of up to 143 million people may have been leaked in a massive data breach. Because of the size of the data breach, it wouldn’t be unwise to assume your information has been compromised.

However, investment and retirement accounts are not easily accessed by identity thieves because information about these accounts is not included on credit reports. Also, withdrawing or transferring money from them is not as easy as swiping your debit card at the ATM.

Having a relationship with your financial planner is an additional layer of security for your retirement and investment accounts. We know you. You’ve told us you’re remodeling your kitchen or selling your home, so we know to expect a large withdrawal, deposit, or change of address. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to keep in touch with us.

That being said, here are some basic habits to consider adopting because this incident surely will not be the last:

  1. Regularly change passwords on your email address and other online accounts like utilities and online banking. Consider using a password manager to track usernames and passwords. Always use strong passwords.
  2. Check your credit reports regularly for transactions and accounts that don’t belong to you. Three credit agencies track this information: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. By law, you can request your credit report once per year per agency for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/.
  3. Mind your paper and plastic. Shred documents containing sensitive information before disposal and always secure your checkbook and credit cards.
  4. Consider freezing your credit. Freezing your credit should prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts, but there are downsides. There are fees each time you freeze/unfreeze your credit for your own use, and it requires the use of a PIN. Expect to be treated like an identity thief yourself if you lose the PIN.

The Federal Trade Commission’s website has more information about Privacy, Identity & Online Security here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/privacy-identity-online-security.

The FTC also operates www.identitytheft.gov, which provides a step-by-step outline of the process to take based on your particular identity theft situation.

Unfortunately, once your information has been comprised, it’s compromised for good. Keeping a close eye on our credit is a habit we need to cultivate in this digital age.

Written By Johnson Bixby