Your credit report offers a consolidated summary of your financial history to anyone authorized to view it — but even fraudsters and identity thieves have methods of hacking in. If they get a hold of your personal information, thieves can open new credit in your name and drive down your credit score.
A compromised credit report is much more invasive than simply losing money. Falling victim to identity theft can disturb virtually every aspect of your life, from your career to retirement plans — sometimes beyond the point of repair. It is important to take proactive steps to protect yourself, your finances, and your opportunities from malicious attempts, no matter when they may strike. To get started, you can:
- Freeze or lock your report: Take control of your finances and restrict access to your credit report. Placing a freeze makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your report, they may not extend the credit. To place a freeze, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus.
- Check in frequently: Monitoring your credit report and score is a great way to ensure your information is staying safe. You are legally entitled to one copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus listed above every 12 months at no cost. Plus, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can check your credit report every week for free. All three national credit reporting agencies are granting everyone weekly access to their reports at no cost through April 2021.
Make sure every item on your report is in line and accurate regularly. Pay close attention to signs of identity theft such as listed accounts that do not belong to you. If there is an error, contact the agency that provided the report, as well as the reporting creditor to correct the discrepancy as soon as possible.
While your credit report is available at no cost, there is usually a cost to obtain your credit score. This can also be received through each of the three credit bureaus. However, some financial institutions offer access to a credit score for free. For example, you may be able to obtain it on a regular basis from a major credit card issuer as a cardholder benefit. At APGFCU, our Member Protect Checking account provides you access to your credit score.
- Sign up for fraud alerts: Know the moment your information is compromised, so you can take necessary action. Sign up for account and card activity alerts with each of your financial institutions. Most, like APGFCU, offer these alerts through online and mobile banking. You can receive notifications by text messaging or email to monitor activity.
- Open an APGFCU Member Protect Checking account: Protect your personal information and credit with this unique checking account. It pays competitive rates on your balance, gives you cash back on debit card purchases, and offers credit monitoring and identity theft protection*.
Having a satisfactory credit report is crucial to growing your personal and professional life. And with the right tools, you can optimize your score while achieving your goals.