Today we want to talk about ways to protect yourself when companies announce their security systems have been compromised. As we’re sure you’re aware, Equifax, one of three consumer credit reporting agencies, recently announced that cybercriminals breached their security systems and stole approximately 143 million consumers’ personal information.
Your security is our priority, and we will continue to monitor the situation.
One of the benefits of banking with us is that we build long-term relationships with our customers. We know you by voice, by name, by car, by swagger, by ball cap, by high school, by coffee choice, by baseball team, by high school affiliation! Even still, you will find our service representatives doing their due diligence to verify your identity. We use several methods, many of which you are unaware of at the time we use them.
If you’re concerned about the Equifax breach, we want to share a few things you can do to protect yourself and monitor you credit. And while we’re at it, we also want to remind you about some of the security measures we offer so you can easily monitor your personal accounts.
(1) Check to see if Equifax suspects your information has been compromised. Equifax has set up a website for you to check if your personal data has been compromised. WARNING: Through this site, Equifax offers one year of free credit monitoring. If you accept the offer, the firm may try to bar you from future legal action through a binding arbitration clause. This particular issue is ongoing, and may change over time. Consumer Reports offers a nice summary here. Another option, and perhaps the better of the two, is to visit the Federal Trade Commission website, which offers several suggestions about what to do if you’re personal information has been compromised.
(2) Check your credit reports. Use www.annualcreditreport.com. The website, operated by the three consumer crediting agencies, fulfills their obligation to the Fair Credit and Transactions Act, which requires firms to provide Americans with three free credit reports per to year. You can view your reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for free. If you see unusual activity, you may be looking at identity theft.
(3) Some sites suggest placing a credit freeze on your files. Credit freezes make it harder for criminals to open accounts in your name, but keep in mind that they do not protect your existing financial services accounts from fraudster.
(4) If you place a freeze on your credit, consider placing a fraud alert on your credit files. Fraud alerts warn creditors that you may have been a victim of identity theft, and that they must take extraordinary care to verify you before they continue with credit-related requests like credit card or loan applications.
(4) Monitor activity on your checking and savings accounts as well as your credit cards. Use online banking to review your account transactions.
(5) File your tax returns early. Tax identity theft happens when fraudsters use your Social Security number to get a tax refund. Open letters from the IRS immediately.
Today you can access your balances from anywhere at any time. Additionally, you can program your devices to monitor and alert you whenever your transactional accounts see activity. Here are ways you can take advantage of Andover State Bank’s products to monitor your accounts.
(1) Online banking. Check your account balances regularly. Review your transactions. If you see abnormalities, research them. Google the name of the merchant. Have other consumers complained about the merchant? Is there a telephone number associated with the transaction? If so, call it.
(2) Follow your accounts on our mobile application. If you don’t have it, download it for free from the App Store or through Google Play.
(3) Set up text message alerts. We will text you your balance every morning so you know what your balances are when you start your day.
(4) Set up email alerts. We will email you every time you have an approved or declined transaction run through your account. This includes 3 a.m. emails about Netflix that show you’ve paid your monthly fee.
These are simple, easy ways to use free tools to monitor your personal transaction and savings accounts. In a day where the speed of technology outpaces our application of it, we must all take vigilant action to protect ourselves from those who wish to do us harm.