Well, I finally was bitten by the Bad Security Bug. I received an email message from AT&T, my cell phone carrier, which indicated that someone had used my Social Security number to create a new account. AT&T did not open the account and marked it as a fraudulent attempt and informed me promptly. I then took steps that I probably should’ve taken long ago to make sure that this didn’t happen. Closing that bar door maybe a bit late but, hopefully, effectively.
First, I contacted my banker and informed her of the use of my Social Security number.
Then, I spent a good part of last night and some of this morning contacting the major credit bureaus to freeze or lock my accounts with them. What that does is prevent anyone from using my personal information to open an account without my clear approval. It was a bit of a cumbersome process, but I finally got it done.
I also ordered my free annual credit report from these bureaus which now I’ll review and correct as necessary.
As I was going through these various steps to secure my various accounts, I came upon a method where you can opt out of solicitations for credit cards and other financially related offers. You can opt out for five years by doing so electronically [at www.optoutprescreen.com] and if you do it in writing, it is a permanent opt out. I don’t want any offers foisted upon me and this seemed a good way to stop that from happening.
As I've written many times, good passwords on accounts and 2-factor authentication is essential. You can use a password manager to retain and create good passwords. All of the security advisors say that you need to have different passwords for your especially valuable accounts (banking, investments, your email) and sometimes the only way to remember/use passwords is to be able to access them through a manager. I use 1Password [www.AgileBits.com] but there are number of solid products out there worth exploring.
I’m hoping this essay will spark others to order their free credit report, to lock their credit report credit bureau information and to improve their passwords.