The Equifax Complete Advantage Plan

Of the three main credit bureaus, Equifax is the largest as well as the oldest. It has over seven thousand employees in fourteen different countries. Equifax collects and maintains credit records for approximately four hundred million individuals and businesses.

Every individual is entitled to one free credit report per year but the report does not show your credit score. There are a number of ways you can obtain a free credit score; sign up for a credit monitoring service. Most of these services offer some type of free trial and as long as you cancel within the trial period, you will be able to obtain your credit score along with your credit report for free.

With your paid subscription to Equifax credit reporting services, you will have the Equifax credit watch. This service constantly monitors all activity on your credit report, allow members to obtain credit reports, credit scores and set credit locking settings.

Equifax also offers security freeze protection in case you feel as if your identity has been compromised or stolen. This freeze prevents information on your credit report from being shared with others and makes it almost impossible for anybody using your name to apply for any type of credit.

Equifax offers three paid membership plans

The Equifax Complete Advantage Plan gives you:

-Comprehensive monitoring of key changes from all three credit reporting agencies as well as unlimited access to your credit score from Equifax
-Get all three credit bureau credit scores once every twelve months
-Track your credit score and see how it changes
-Get up to $25,000 in Identity Theft Protection

The Equifax Complete Premier Plan not only monitors your credit, it helps protect your identity as well. Included with this plan is:

-Help with cancelling and reissuing credit and debit cards, checkbooks and travelers checks
-Help with cancelling and reissuing passports, visas and immigration documents
-Help with cancelling and reissuing id cards, driver’s licenses, social security cards and military id cards
-See all three credit bureau scores once every twelve months
-Get 24/7 monitoring and alerts of key changes to all three credit files (learn more at http://stopidentityfraud.org/credit-monitoring-services/)
-Unlimited access to your Equifax credit score
-Helps detect possible identity theft with Equifax’s automatic fraud alert feature
-Get up to $1,000,000 in Identity Theft Insurance

Equifax Scorewatch

Use Equifax’s Score Watch feature to get your FICO score, see interest rates that you are likely to receive and track your score so you can choose when to receive alerts. The higher your FICO score, the lower interest rates you will receive on a loan; making monthly payments lower. With Score Watch you get:

-A full FICO score twice a year
-Set a target score and receive an alert when it changes
-Daily monitoring of your Equifax credit report via email or mobile alerts
-Find out how lenders will see you and what interest rates will apply to you
-Customer service available seven days a week

Choosing any of the three subscription services that Equifax has to offer will give you access to your credit report and score as well as offering fraud and identity theft protection all with one company.

How To Read Your Credit Report

Types of Information Contained in a Credit Report

Credit reports contain information regarding financial actions. These actions will include loan account information and payments on those loan accounts. It is suggested that this information be reviewed at least once every year. This will allow checks for report accuracy. The types of information on a credit report are:

Personal Information

This will include: full name, current address and place of employment. It may also include previous addresses and previous places of employment. There may also be name variations or even name misspellings listed. This will usually relate to minor creditor reporting errors. These minor errors are not considered important. They also provide a link between identities and credit information. However, if the error indicates a completely different identity, then it should be reported to the credit bureau immediately.

Credit Summary Section

The credit summary section will summarize the information pertaining to different account types. This section is comprised of the number of accounts, balances and delinquent account information. Account types listed are:

• Installment accounts (loans)
• Revolving accounts (credit cards, lines of credit)
• Real Estate accounts (mortgages)
• Collection Accounts
• Other types of accounts

In addition, the Credit Summary will also indicate:

• The number of open accounts
• The number of closed accounts
• Accounts listed in public records
• Credit inquiries made in the last two years

Account History Section

The Account History Section will contain the majority of the credit information. Each credit account will be listed here. For each account, payment details will be listed. Details listed will include:

• Name of the creditor
• Account number associated with each account (part of the number may be obscured for security reasons)
• Type of Account (mortgage, auto loan, revolving, etc.)
• Account Responsibility (joint, individual or authorized user responsibilities)
• Monthly account payment (minimum monthly payment amount required)
• Date Account opened (month and year of account establishment)
• Date reported is the date of the last report made by the creditor to the credit bureau
• Account Balance is the current amount owed on the account as of the last reporting date
• Amount of the original loan or the current credit limit
• High Credit or High Balance is the largest amount that was ever charged on a credit card. For installment loans, it will be the original amount of the loan
• Past due is the amount that has past the normal payment date at the time of reporting
• Remarks section includes comments posted by creditors
• Payment status (current, charge-off, past due). Current accounts may still list delinquencies
• Payment History will indicate the monthly payment status from the beginning of the account
• Collection accounts will appear in the account history or in a separate section

Public Records Section

The public records section will include court judgments, bankruptcies, tax liens and overdue child support (in some states). Public record entries may remain on a credit report for seven to ten years. Public Records entries are considered particularly negative on a credit report. To get daily credit monitoring plus access to your credit reports, consider one of these credit monitoring services http://stopidentityfraud.org/credit-monitoring-services

Credit Inquiries

The credit inquiries section lists those who have accessed the credit report. This will include inquiries made within the past 2 years. Individual credit reports will list all of the inquiries within the last 2 years. However, not all of these are listed on lender’s and creditor’s versions. Lender’s copies will only show ‘hard’ inquiries. A hard inquiry is made when a credit application is submitted. A ‘soft’ inquiry is made when a lender accesses the report for credit promotional purposes. Soft inquiries have no effect on an overall credit score. However, hard inquiries will lower a credit score by a small margin.

Do You Really Need RFID Blocking Wallet?

Buying a wallet used to be a relatively simple decision.  You had your choice of a bifold, trifold, credit card sleeve or maybe just a money clip.  Now if you flip through tech or gadget magazine, you’ll find a whole new genre of wallets that are designed with RFID blocking protection. Like this one from Common Fibers and Billetus  RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) blocking wallets are, in theory, made to shield your smart cards from identity thieves who use a cheap, handheld RFID scanners to “skim” your card information from a distance.  Once they’ve downloaded your card information, they create a new card with your card number and details. That’s when the real damage starts, because the new cards read just like a legitimate credit card and credit card scanners can’t tell the difference.  The criminals can do all of this from several feet away, without you even knowing it’s happening.

With frightening reality in mind, do you really need an RFID blocking wallet?  Do they even work as advertised?  To some extent they may offer a level of protection, however not all of these wallets work as well as others. Testing by Consumer Reports and others have shown that some of the RFID blocking wallets on the market work about as well as wrapping your credit cards in a layer of aluminum foil..but others may have some merit.

It’s also not certain whether the threat of RFID skimming is occurring often enough to truly be a concern for most people.  There have been very few reported cases of RFID skimming crimes and for good reason.  There are simpler and more effective ways of stealing peoples personal information and money.

RFID technology has improved significantly since it’s inception.  Early versions would transmit sensitive information unencrypted, including credit card numbers.  However, according to the major credit card companies, the latest RFID payment systems are extremely secure and now use full data encryption.  Nevertheless, RFID technology may be dying a slow death as card companies begin the transition to cards with EMV chip and PIN technology, which are considerably less susceptible to remote skimming.  EMV cards do not transmit a radio frequency signal, so an RFID wallet isn’t going to do much good with these new cards.

Even if you make the switch to all EMV based credit cards, you may still be transmitting an RFID signal from your drivers license or passport.  Luckily, the only information anyone is likely to steal is your name and physical address.  Even if compromised, this basic information isn’t likely to make you a fraud or identity theft victim.  If you fancy yourself as a wannabe James Bond or you’re just a little on the paranoid side, an RFID wallet may be a wise purchase.  However, chances are you’ll be ok without one.

The Cost Of Identity Fraud Increases Annually

We all know someone who’s been a victim of identity fraud or possibly you are the person you know who’s had their identity stolen.  Unfortunately, no matter how much technology gets thrown at this problem, identity theft is still on the rise annually.  Giact.com provided us this detailed infographic which outlines the staggering costs of identity theft.

What stands out to me, aside from the $16.8 billion dollars in damages caused by identity theft in 2017, is the rise in synthetic identity theft.  The fact that fraudsters can create a new identity out of thin air is staggering and scary.  This means your personal identifying information (PII) might be used fraudulently with your real name and identity or a brand new identity using some of your information such as a social security number or credit card number.

growing costs of identity fraud infographic

Synthetic identity theft cost the credit card industry 6 billion dollars in 2016 and will likely increase for 2018.

So with all of this in mind, what can you do to keep your identity safe?  Monitoring your credit and your credit reports is a good start.  It’s the first place you’ll notice any abnormal activity such as credit inquiries you didn’t approve or accounts you didn’t personally open.

Keep your information secure. Make sure you only share your PII with trusted sources, especially online.  Make sure the websites you visit and submit information on have a green padlock in the browser bar.  This means the website is secure, making it more difficult for thieves to steal your information.

You can read about more ways to help protect your identity from theft & fraud here.

Online Shopping and Cyber Security

online shoppingWith online shopping as popular as ever the importance of cyber security becomes essential to everyone. Shopping, even in the real world, involves money and where there is money, there are criminals. Criminals follow the money trail targeting online shoppers all the a way to their computers, mobile devices, credit cards and bank accounts.

Online shopping became fashionable when people discovered one is free from stress and fatigue caused by crowds and traffic. There is also the convenience of searching whatever it is you want from your home, at your most convenient time, and paying for it without waiting in line. All of these with just a few click of a mouse.

However, the internet is also a convenient place for cyber criminals. They target the online shoppers, fraudulently obtaining information they can use for their own financial gains. These criminals use three common ways in attacking the online shoppers.

Unprotected computers

Unprotected computers are easy targets for viruses and other malicious codes used by cyber criminals to gain access to personal and financial information. On the other end, online vendors have to protect their computers, too, against attackers who may access their customer databases.  We have all seen how that has worked out lately. More and more big-box retailers have been hacked. It’s all over the news everyday.

Fake sites and email messages

In the virtual online world, a site (or an online store) can be faked by cyber criminals, with no one the wiser. These fake sites mimic the legitimate ones and capture the business, at least until they are caught or noticed.

Charities have also been misrepresented, especially during natural disasters or holiday seasons where people pour in donation money and aid. Most often, though, these attackers collect information for their own illegal use.

Cyber safety measures

Maintaining an up-to-date anti-virus program, a firewall and anti-spyware is an essential three-pronged first line of defense in cyber security. They protect you against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify your data and make your computer vulnerable. Spyware may also give the attackers access to your data.

Updated browser

Browsers are the gateway between your computer and the internet. Enable the option of automatic updates to your computer so that the operating programs and utilities are up to date.

It is likewise important to check the default settings of your computer and apply the highest level of security. This applies primarily to browsers, email clients, etc. because these are the connectors to the Internet.

Reputable vendors

This is where care should be taken because cyber criminals are very good at mimicking the sites of legitimate vendors to make it appear genuine. You need to verify their legitimacy before supplying any information. Keep the phone numbers and the physical addresses of these vendors which you can use in case of problems.

Security features and private policies

As always, passwords and other security features add protection, if correctly used. Check the site’s privacy policy before giving out personal or financial information. You have to understand how your information is stored and used.

Encrypted information

Make sure the information you give out is encrypted. To check if it is, see if it includes a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and has a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. Know where the padlock icon is located in your favorite browser since some attackers use fake padlock icons to trick users.  There is special keyboard encryption software available now that you should have on every device you use.

Use your credit card

Credit card charges have laws that limit your liability in case of fraud. This may not be the case for your debit card. Because debit cards draw money directly from your bank account, unauthorized withdrawals could leave you penniless. Needless to say, a record of your purchases should be kept aside. Report immediately any discrepancy.

Shopping online is truly a time-saving, hassle-free, and fun way of buying whatever you want on the internet. The presence of the ubiquitous cyber criminals stalking at every cyber corner necessitates the need of cyber security.  Make sure you are protected with credit monitoring.

Your cyber-health is your responsibility.

Avoiding Online Auction Fraud

Despite the increase in reports of cyber bulling through Facebook and other social media sites, the number one cybercrime that is reported is by far auction fraud. In particular, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has reported that they have especially seen an increase in auction fraud related to international car auctioning.

An auction that is run is internationally is one of the key signs that you are about to be tricked into giving a fraudster your money. Most of the time when a buyer falls for these tricks, the money is unrecoverable.  Only use trusted auction sites like Auctions Near Me or TopHatter.

In some cases, this can be devastating, but there is nothing that the authorities can do. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is made up of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

They reported that the reports of internet crime made up 62% of the all the complaints that were called in. Undelivered merchandise or payment, credit and debit fraud, check fraud, investment fraud, computer fraud, and confidence fraud were the other categories in which the IC3 received complaints.

This center also stated that the second thing people should watch out for besides international auctioneers is what is called a “second chance auctions.” Second chance auctions are auctions in which the auctioneer contacts the second runner up and tells them that the first buyer fell through and that they can now purchase the item.

Often, the auctioneer will request the buyer to transfer the money to them through an unreliable method. Buyers should only agree to transactions that take place through reliable methods such as an escrow service.

An escrow service is one through which the money is transferred to a third party who is trust worthy that will hold the money until the transaction is completed, upon which the money is given to the seller. The escrow service transfers the money based on pre-determined specifications.

There are several things you should keep in mind as you try to avoid online fraud. The first thing you should do is learn about online fraud.

Learn what kinds of things can give a fraudster away so that you can avoid giving your money to them. You will also want to learn how the auction works, what the rules are, what kind of regulations you must hold to as the buyer, and what the seller’s is responsible for.

These things are all vitally important to know before you bid. In addition, you will want to research the seller.

This is vital to avoiding fraud and you will do it thoroughly every time you consider a bid if you are serious about avoiding fraud. Sometimes the only information placed online by a bidder is his or her email address.

Send a message to the seller requesting more information. If the seller is not forthcoming, do not place a bid as the seller is almost for sure a fraudster.

If the seller happens to be a business, look up the business on the Better Business Bureau. In addition to reviewing the personal information on the seller, you should read the reviews on the seller.

If there are not very many reviews, even if the reviews are good, you probably will want to find another place to purchase the goods. The seller should have long history with 95% positive reviews for you to trust him or her enough to make the purchase.

Remember that even with these precautions, a fraudster can still manipulate the review system on occasion. Be wary and watch out for other signs that you are deal with a fraudster.

Next, you will want to check and see what kind of payment the seller is asking for. Remember that if it is not a reliable, traceable way of payment, you will want to find another way to make the purchase.

You will also want to look at the auction’s policies. Learn what the auction site does when problems arise and warranties are requested.

It is also good to know what their policy is on delivery times, exchanges, and defective merchandise. By the time you are done you should also have a thorough understanding of how shipping and delivery works and how much it costs.

The costs of shipping and delivery are often expensive and this cost is often a surprise to buyers. Do not let this cost be a surprise to you.

Take a proactive approach to keeping your identity safe from fraud, on and offline.  Read who we ranked as the top credit monitoring services this year and sign up for free 30 day identity monitoring & protection. Get free alerts when fraud or suspicious activity is detected so you can take action

Learn How To Protect Your Social Security Number

ssnprotectiontips

The most sensitive piece of personally identifiable information is without a doubt your social security number.  This is one piece of information you don’t want anybody else getting their hands on. An identity thief can do unthinkable amounts of damage with your social security number and very little other information.   So what do you need to do in order to keep your SSN as secure as possible?

A typical yet effective strategy on preventing Social Security Number (SSN) theft is on the way, finally. This change will hopefully make it more difficult for identity thieves to easily access your SSN and use it for identity theft purposes.  Your SSN will eventually be excluded by Medicare as part of their benefit cards. Over the years, these numbers have been among the primary basis for medical identification.  This was just a problem waiting to happen.  And guess what, it did happen.  In the form of countless cases of identity theft.

Recently, President Obama signed a bill intending to stop using SSNs when transacting with Medicare. This law was accepted by the State’s major political parties. The primary objective of this law is to modify doctors’ fees when it comes to giving medical services to patients covered by Medicare, however there is a specific section of the law that emphasizes that never should SSNs be reflected, typed, or included on the Medicare ID.

According to Texas Representative Sam Johnson (Republican), the main ingredient to making identity theft possible is the SSNs and that the criminals use the Medicare cards of the seniors as a tool.

“Carry your card with you when you are away from home. Let your hospital or doctor see your card when you require hospital, medical or health services under Medicare.” These statements serve as aid to prevent identity theft. This defies the rule that mandates not a single person should ever bring their personal SSN on their behalf. The good news is that the law just solved identity theft by addressing the source.

While this is true however, there are still other ways by which culprits will be able to get your SSN and use it to their schemes. Take note of the following ways where your social security number is most vulnerable and protect yourself in the future.  If you do become a victim of a stolen social security number, here are some steps to follow immediately.

1. Tax Documents

These days, filing taxes through mail is a common practice. If you are among the people who do this, there is a possibility that unauthorized people/entities may have access to your documents containing sensitive, personal information like your SSN. Identity thieves can simply take mail from your mail box during tax season.  They know exactly what they’re looking for and within seconds, they can have your social security number, and possibly even drivers license numbers, phone numbers and your entire identity. In addition to, SSN thieves also execute their crime through phone scams. Fraudsters pretend to be IRS representatives contacting people and convincing them to provide specific information such as the SSN and other documents. Keep in mind that the IRS only communicates through mail. Solution:  Don’t file your taxes via mail.  Ask your tax preparer to e-file or if you do your own taxes, you have this option as well.  Keep the sensitive paperwork out of the mail and the hands of id thieves.

2. Data Sharing

When you stop and think about it, it seems like every agency requires SSN today – from government agencies, real estate companies, insurance firms, and even telephone plan provider. Unfortunately, providing your SSN is something that most people nowadays do not worry about anymore. It is true that a lot of institutions need SSN for their processes. However, it does not necessarily mean that everyone should lawfully have it. For your information, the law states that it is the IRS, healthcare providers, police, banks, and employers which are allowed to require Social Security Numbers and information from you. A few companies, however, may also be permitted but the process must be upon strict compliance with the law. Whenever you notice that there is an option that does not require you to share your SNN information, choose not to share it. This limits the possibility for your SSN details to be obtained by fraudsters.

3. Bank transactions

Clearly, the law allows banking institutions to ask for your SSN information. However, they are mandated to observe and abide by the “Know Your Customer” guidelines. This stops criminals to use the banks for their fraudulent schemes. As a customer, you have the privilege to learn about the measures that the bank adopts in order to secure your SSN details as well as be oriented about their solutions in case a breach happens.

When you know about the typical sources of SSN ID theft, you will be able to protect yourself from it. Safeguard your SSN at all times by keeping your SS card in your safety deposit box or in a safe at home.  Never carry your social security card on your person.  It is not necessary. Furthermore, don’t feel that you are required to share your social security number with anyone.  You can always refuse to provide it if you don’t feel comfortable with the person asking for it.  As always, monitor your credit for signs of fraud or unauthorized use.

Here’s 4 More Tips You Can Use To Keep Your SSN Private

Simple Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

improvecreditscores

Keeping your credit score and credit rating in good standing is extremely important when it comes time to apply for auto loans, mortgages & other revolving lines of credit.  Unfortunately some of us fall into a bad spot where we’ve let our credit scores drop because of debt, identity theft and various other reasons.  This doesn’t mean you have to live with a bad credit rating forever.

There are many ways people can begin improving their credit scores with some simple techniques they just might not be aware of.  Erasing old, inaccurate information from your credit reports, paying off old debt, & avoiding late payments are just a few ways that you can start boosting your credit scores immediately.

Here Are More Simple Ways To Start Improving Your Credit Score

Is Your NetFlix Password In The Wrong Hands?

For millions of Americans, their Netflix accounts are essential to getting through a sick day or weekend at home. Nevertheless, something most of these subscribers don’t pay much mind to is keeping basic account security that helps to keep their individual info safe. Something as easy as changing a password regularly may appear like a bit of a hassle, but it’s vital to making sure ongoing account security, particularly as it associates with current hacking attacks.

A number of major data breaches in recent months have potentially put Netflix users at risk of having their streaming accounts hacked, according to Advertisement Week’s Lost Remote vertical. In mid-October 2016 and once again previously this month, Netflix began alerting customers that it had actually been checking its own user records versus data exposed in other companies’ information breaches, indicating that while Netflix itself has actually been unaffected, user accounts were still at threat. As a result, impacted users were required to alter their passwords.

What’s the risk?

The reason for customers to change their passwords is basic: Many individuals use the very same login details for numerous or perhaps all their online accounts, according to TIME Data Security. While can make it much easier for individuals to bear in mind their passwords, it likewise makes it simpler for hackers to get access to potentially important details. Even something as easy as a Netflix password can give criminals– who can frequently buy taken login data at low individual costs– access to crucial information that can be used for fraud, including name, address, and even charge card data.

Customers can examine to see how their accounts have been accessed by making use of Netflix’s “Viewing Activity” feature, which will show info such as the IP address and place where accounts have been accessed, the news source stated. That, in turn, can assist individuals comprehend if their accounts have been subjected to these kinds of attacks, and trigger them to start altering their passwords for their other accounts if they haven’t currently.

Getting smarter

People typically know they need to utilize multiple passwords for their various accounts– ideally using an unique one for each account they develop– hackers also know that this isn’t basic practice for the huge bulk of internet users, inning accordance with KrebsOnSecurity. Hackers also understand that if they have, state, a victim’s Facebook password, they can attempt using that password for Twitter, Netflix and even savings account and have some quantity of success.

Fortunately for numerous web users is that larger business like Netflix are taking preemptive actions to make sure account information isn’t used by hackers, but there’s no single sure-fire way to prevent this from occurring. Businesses can examine their own records versus exactly what’s been dripped online, but it depends on users change their login information.

” Some Netflix members have actually received emails motivating them to alter their account passwords as a precautionary procedure due to the recent disclosure of extra credentials from an older breach at another internet business,” Netflix told KrebsOnSecurity. “Note that we are constantly participating in these kinds of proactive security procedures (leveraging Scumblr in addition to other mechanisms and information sources), not just when it comes to significant security breaches such as this one.”

In addition to keeping different passwords for all their separate accounts, it’s smart for users to make sure they take efforts to read more about the dangers they face and alter their passwords regularly. That way, even if a years– old Netflix account is breached, there’s little chance of that to affect other accounts. When passwords fail you, it’s constantly excellent to have an identity theft security plan in place.  Take proactive steps to secure your personal information and keep track of your credit by monitoring it regularly.

Credit Report Errors Might Be Identity Theft

There is always a downside to the efficiency that modern technology provides. While it is more convenient to carry a credit card instead of bulky cash, your identity becomes vulnerable due to the information you have provided to apply for the card. More so, you become almost too exposed with credit bureaus collecting information about you when creditors ask for it. Before you know it, you could be a victim of identity theft.

How do you know that your identity has possibly been stolen? There some telltale signs that someone is assuming your identity and one of them is when your application for a credit card, loan or insurance gets rejected due to low credit score yet you are sure that you have paid your bills on time. You can also be a victim of identity theft if a debt collector demands that you pay your credit card account that has been overdue yet you never had a credit card. It is also a sign that you are a victim of stolen identity if you receive, through mail, a credit card that you have never applied for.

If you suspect that your identity is stolen, immediately report it to credit bureaus. Place a fraud alert, which will initially last for 90 days according to the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act FRCA, and ask for a copy of your true credit report. You will then receive an e-mail of your rights as a victim of stolen identity from credit bureaus. You can ask for an extension of the fraud alert for up to seven years for as long as you have evidences that your identity is indeed being used by another person. You can cancel the fraud alerts anytime the case has been solved.

Once you get credit report from credit bureaus, immediately review the reports and look for fraudulent accounts and erroneous information. Report to the credit bureau, from which you receive your report, any anomaly that you see. Your notification will require the credit bureaus block the information from future credit reports and notify creditors of the fraudulent accounts. Check your credit reports manually or sign up for credit monitoring to get the names and contact details of the credit grantors of the fraudulent account and ask the bureau for those details if they have not included it in your report.

These are just the initial steps that you can take once you notice that someone else has assumed your identity. From here, you can proceed to more complicated measures such as freezing your account and asking the assistance of your local law enforcers. Identity theft can ruin your life if you do not act on it quickly.  So be aware and stay on top of what’s going on with your credit reports.