Your Security and Peace of Mind Matter to Us
We understand that experiencing a security breach can be distressing. At ML&R Wealth Management we are committed to helping you navigate this situation with care and expertise. This checklist is designed to guide you through the essential steps to protect your personal and financial information after a security breach.
- Stay Calm: It’s natural to feel upset, but staying calm will help you make informed decisions.
- Secure your Accounts: Starting with any accounts specified in the breach notification, update the passwords and PINs you use to log in, ensuring they are strong and unique. If you haven’t already done so, as you tweak your passwords also consider activating two-factor authentication to your accounts. This requires you to get a confirmation code via text message or email before each login, to prove you are you. It adds a small step to the sign-in process, but it makes it much harder for password thieves to gain access.
- Notify Credit Bureau with a Fraud Alert: Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit file. A fraud alert is a security measure that can help protect your credit and personal information. When you place a fraud alert with a credit bureau, it sends a signal to potential creditors that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before opening any new accounts in your name. This extra layer of protection makes it more difficult for someone to use your information fraudulently. When you add a fraud alert to any of your credit reports (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax), the alert is automatically applied to all three bureaus. A fraud alert will stay on your credit report for one year. You can renew the fraud alert when it expires.
- Freeze or Lock Your Credit File with the Credit Bureaus– Though a little more inconvenient than a fraud alert, a freeze on your credit is even more effective. Freezing your credit helps protect your credit file from scammers and other criminals who may apply for credit in your name. However, it will also prevent creditors from accessing your credit for legitimate credit applications. If you want to allow a lender to view a frozen credit report (as when applying for a credit card or loan), you must first “thaw,” or unfreeze, your credit reports. In order to freeze your credit, you must contact each bureau separately. You’ll be required to give certain information to verify your identity.
- Equifax: Call them at 1-888-298-0045.
- Experian: Call them at 1-888-397-3742.
- TransUnion: Call them at 1-888-909-8872.
- Monitor Accounts and Statements: Regularly check your bank, investment, and credit card accounts and statements for any unauthorized or suspicious activities. Report discrepancies promptly.
- Monitor your credit reports: You can request free credit reports annually from each of the major credit bureaus. You can also go to annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Review your reports and make notes of any account or transaction you don’t recognize.
- Secure Personal Information: Store sensitive documents, such as your Social Security card and financial statements, in a secure location.
- Maintain Records: Keep records of all communications related to the security breach, including dates, times, and the names of individuals you speak with.
- Be Cautious of Scams: Beware of unsolicited communications or requests for personal information, as scammers may attempt to take advantage of the situation.
- Inform Trusted Contacts: Let family members or trusted friends know about the breach to ensure someone is aware of the situation.
- Seek Legal Advice: Consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in identity theft or privacy law for guidance.
- Contact Local Authorities: Report the breach to your local law enforcement agency if you suspect criminal activity.
- Identity Theft Resources: Explore resources provided by organizations like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for guidance on identity theft recovery.
Prevention and Future Protection
- Regularly Monitor Accounts: Continue to monitor your financial accounts and credit reports for an extended period to ensure no further issues arise.
- Combat Check Washing: Check washing is a common fraudulent practice where criminals alter the ink on checks to change the recipient, amount, or other critical details. This can lead to unauthorized withdrawals and substantial financial losses. Using an anti-check washing pen acts as a powerful deterrent against such activities and adds an extra layer of security to your checks.
- Consider Adding a Verbal Password: Some financial institutions (i.e. Schwab) will allow you to add a verbal password to your accounts. This password would be the primary authentication they would request before they discuss the account or accept any verbal account transaction instructions over the phone.
- Consider Identity Theft Protection Services: Evaluate identity theft protection services that offer ongoing monitoring and support.
We are here to support you, and your security is our top priority. Thank you for entrusting us with your well-being. If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to our dedicated team. You can also reference our Security Breach Infographic, available here.