Saturday, September 23, 2017

Equifax Security Breach - What To Do

You have most likely heard about the security breach at Equifax, which is one of the 3 top credit bureaus that store your personal information.  Not only were most adult's credit information in America stolen, but if you ever had to send in or upload your driver's license, that was also stolen.  If you don't know what these bureaus have in regards to your personal information, you can read it below.

What Personal Information Credit Bureaus Have

  • Full name and other names you have used
  • Social Security Number
  • Addresses past and present
  • Employers past and present
  • Salary information
  • Driver's license (if you ever had to prove your identity to one of the bureaus)
  • Credit accounts open or closed 
  • Mortgage accounts open or closed
  • If you pay on time, what your balances and credit limits are
  • How much total credit you have available and how much you are utilizing
  • Any debt collections (including medical bills sent to collectors)
  • Any illegal or derogatory information such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, tax evasion, repossessions, etc.

As you can see, that is a lot of information that these bureaus have that you never gave to them.  So, how did they get it?  Banks and businesses give them our information and then they buy our information when we do business with them.  I see a lot of regulations coming up over this and probably more thumbprint readers, face scanners and who knows what else.

So, we all have lost all of the above information and it is out there and there is no turning back.  At any moment, someone could steal your identity and you would have to go to great lengths to prove it wasn't you.  Obviously, you will need some form of protection because of all this, so, what are your options?


How To Protect Your Identity

  • Place a security freeze on your credit with all 3 bureaus - You may have to pay a small fee for placing a freeze with TransUnion and Experian but Equifax is doing it for free.
  • Place a fraud alert with one of the bureaus - only do this if you are not doing a freeze and from what I've read, you only need to notify one bureau and the rest will automatically be notified from the one.
  • Enroll in Equifax's free protection that covers you up to $1 million - not like they are going to have the ability or even a business left to protect us, but it is free and gives us some sort of feeling of protection.
  • Monitor your credit report frequently - you can get a free copy from each bureau of your report from annualcreditreport.com once a year.  You could also sign up with companies that give you access to your reports to monitor them or pay these companies to monitor them for you.  This isn't needed if you froze your credit.
  • Buy identity protection - there are many companies offering identity protection out there but when fraud happens, they make you do all the work of calling, filing papers, etc.  It can take over your life!  There is one that I know of that is a full-service company and will do that work for you in the event your identity is stolen, that is Zander Insurance.  You may have heard about them from Dave Ramsey, as he highly recommends them and uses them.  You can cover your whole family for $145 a year.
  • Stop bank and credit offers in the mail - opt out at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t of getting pre-screened bank and credit offers and even insurance offers through the mail to prevent identity theft.  You can do an electronic opt-out for 5 years or a permanent one by sending in the form by mail.

What To Know About Freezing Your Credit

  • You won't be able to apply for any type of credit (cards, mortgage, car loan, etc.) while your credit is frozen.  However, you can temporarily "thaw" and even "unfreeze" your credit at anytime from the 3 bureaus in the event you need to.
  • Your employer or landlord will not have access to check your credit in the event you apply for a new job or a new place to rent.  You will need to unfreeze your credit to do these.
  • Freezing doesn't guarantee your identity isn't stolen.  Thieves can steal your identity in other ways as well, such as: medical fraud (pretending to be you for a surgery or hospital stay by using your SSN), Tax fraud (get ready for a crazy tax year come January!!  You may find someone has filed a fraudulent tax form in your name and got a refund), etc.  This is why you also need identity protection like Zander that I mentioned above.

You can't really stop the thieves completely now, but you can hopefully be covered in the event they do commit fraud against you, by having a company to pay the costs and do the work to restore your identity.  Thanks Equifax for creating the largest personal information breach in American history.  Now that it is out there, it will always be out there until the day you die - but hate to tell you, there is even fraud for people who have died!

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Update: Life in Ohio

We are one month away from having lived in Ohio for a year.  I have to say that the newness has not worn off, I still love it here!  This is by far my favorite place that I have lived in my life.  God has really blessed us here.

Even though our pay was substantially lower, we are finding that the quality of life here is far more superior than in Washington state.  The income taxes are horrible here but it may be worth it because it is so beautiful here and full of life.  Did I just say that? LOL!  At least the sales tax is low and there is no tax on food.  We were able to purchase our first home before we moved here and have our first brand-new car.  I believe the time was right for us to enter into these "luxuries" and keep our debt-free lifestyle.

The kids love it here too, they are happy all the time and we never run out of things to do.  If anything, there is SO much to do in our area alone that it is overwhelming and even after a year, we haven't even touched the whole of it.  Then, there is all that is out to do just 90 minutes from here and then on - there is nothing like living in the eastern part of the US!  I was on the west coast for 18 years (Alaska and WA) and though I loved Alaska's scenery, it was horribly lonely there.  Washington was probably the worst place we have lived in my opinion, although my husband loved it but he is loving it here now possibly more than WA.

God led us in a new direction as He is showing us just what He called us to this city for, it is becoming very clear we have a purpose.  Many amazing things have happened as God opened doors to show us He is not limited in how He can use us in the future.  Our church is wonderful and the people are very loving and our oldest daughter is really growing in her walk with the Lord.  I also experienced something that I never thought I would experience in my life.  I thought that because of my past traumas in life that I would never feel like I "belong."  However, I finally feel like I belong!  It had nothing to do with my past traumas, it just had to do with being where God wants us.  I hope to blog on this very topic in the future about heeding God's voice above all and really having faith in Him.

The weather here is better than I expected.  I was thinking it would be horrible with the humidity but I've found after now living here through every season, it is not bad at all!  The humidity is hardly noticeable to me and I've only felt it "muggy" on a few days this summer.  I'm loving every season here and it is wonderful to have fall and see the leaves change - we missed that for 10 years in WA.

I think that about sums it up so far - thanking God for this city and our new life here.

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