The giant financial story in the news the last couple of weeks is one that should concern you. Equifax, one of the major credit bureaus suffered a significant data hack. Why is this a big deal? In addition to having all of your credit account numbers, Equifax also has your personal information. Your address. Your driver’s license number. Your Social Security number. Basically, the hackers may have access to everything they need to apply for credit in your name. And Equifax isn’t something you needed to opt into to potentially be victimized. If you’ve ever applied for credit of any sort—including utility accounts and student loans—you likely have a credit record with Equifax. And you should definitely check to see if you may have been included in the hacked data.
Equifax has set up a site here where you can enter your information and find out if your data was included in the breach. If it was, you can get a year of free credit monitoring by signing up with Trusted ID Premiere through the Equifax-provided link. But I’ll be honest with you…I signed up a week ago and haven’t received any confirmation that this went through. The reality is that Equifax is overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the requests. And I’m not sure that I want to depend on Equifax, the company that leaked my data, to turn around and protect that same data. I’m actually considering signing up for a paid credit monitoring service for myself. Somehow it seems worthwhile at this point to have the equivalent of an insurance policy on my credit.
There are some things you can do on your own to secure your data. The free credit monitoring offered by Equifax is one option. But you can also add a credit freeze to your credit reports. The freeze would make it so no requests for credit for you can go through without your unlocking the freeze with that credit bureau. And it’s also a good idea for you to check your credit reports at least once a year. You can get a free copy from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once a year at http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
But please be aware that checking up on your credit is not a “once and done” kind of thing. In data breach situations like this, the hackers are likely to sit on your data for a few years before actually using it to their benefit (and your detriment). So now is the time for you to make a habit of looking at your credit with some regularity. I’m sure this data breach will not be the last. And it seems each one is more horrifying than the previous one. Take care of your financial health. Watch (or insure) your credit!
I received two different notifications from my credit card providers this week. One made me happy. The other made me a bit frustrated.
The one that made me happy indicated that my Visa card provider was sending me a new card because my existing card was a part of the Home Depot data breach. So why does this make me happy? Because I knew I had used my Visa at Home Depot during the affected time period. I wasn’t exactly sure what my next step should be. And lo and behold….my card provider was proactive and took care of it for me. That’s a sign that my credit card company is a good one. And that makes me happy.
The notification that frustrated me was in regard to my Subaru Rewards Mastercard. I rarely use this card. I have it for exactly one reason: Sam’s Club doesn’t accept Visa. So most of the time I use the Visa card I talked about earlier. But at Sam’s Club I needed to have either a Discover or a Mastercard. I did a little research about what card would give me the best rewards deal, and decided on the Subaru Mastercard. 3% of all of my purchases goes into a rewards account, and when that account reaches $100, I get a $100 gift certificate good for sales or service at any Subaru dealership. Since I own an aging Subaru Forester, this seemed like a good choice. But the frustrating communication I received recently said that my card provider is ending their partnership with Subaru and I should expect this card to be replaced by a cash back rewards Visa. The exact same Visa that I use already. And that won’t be accepted by the one store where I use the Mastercard. Frustrating. And to top it off, I was at $82 on my rewards total, leaving me a small window of time in which to either charge $600 worth of stuff or just give up and lose the rewards I’ve been accumulating. Frustrating!
As fate would have it, I needed to buy new tires for my car, which turned out to be a $500 expense at Sam’s Club. So I think I’ll use the Mastercard for groceries this week and meet my required spending to actually receive my gift certificate. But I still needed to address the issue of future shopping. I need a new Mastercard.
I use credit cards for convenience, not for credit. I pay these cards off in full at the end of every month. But to get the most “bang” for my card usage, I like to make sure I’m earning some kind of rewards with my credit cards. Luckily there are websites designed exactly for the purpose of finding your best rewards fit. NerdWallet, CreditCards.com, and CardHub are all decent sites to help you find the best card for you, and they helped me find the new card that I needed.
Now I’m not saying that everyone should go out and apply for a credit card. But it is nice knowing that there are resources available to help you find the one that’s the best fit for you.