Here are 14 Simple Steps to Help Protect Your Credit Today
It has become more important than ever today to protect your credit and financial data. With identity theft on the rise, one can never be too protective of their credit. Financial crimes keep multiplying and the growth will never stop.
Protecting your credit is more than just identity theft. Your credit can be used in various ways and you may never know. One of the main issues that people have with credit is they never know until it is too late.
You can slowly see small amounts coming from your bank account and not know what’s going on. A little bit here and a little bit there and then they all add up. Before you know it, a good chunk of money is missing from your bank. This happens more often than you may like to believe.
Checking your credit periodically is not enough to prevent your finances from being accessed without your knowledge. You need to know the baseline of your credit and the finances just like the credit bureaus do.
Even if your credit is not established, you can tell what your baseline is for your credit history. This could be making a credit card payment of at least 25% more per month. You may pay your credit card bill at least 10 days early. These habits can contribute to your credit history.
Credit issuers will know your patterns. Should your pattern suddenly change and your bills suddenly stop being paid, then you would know something has happened.
If your payment has been intercepted by a hacker and the credit card never received the money, then your credit would be affected as a result.
There are many ways to protect your credit. It’s more than just the simple basics. There are some other ways that can be critical to preventing anyone without your authorization from accessing your financial data.
We have put together a list of some simple tips that we believe are extremely beneficial to help you and your loved ones protect their financial data from being accessed without permission. Many have found these tips to be extremely helpful. Read on!
Monitor Your Credit
The most important part of protecting your credit is by monitoring your credit. Your credit is critical when determining if you may be eligible to obtain a loan.
You can do the basic part yourself by checking your credit with the 3 main credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
You could also use one or two of the most popular credit monitoring apps like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
Credit is also an important part of protecting your identity. Many types of protection including identity theft, credit card fraud and bank account fraud including credit unions, can be detected by monitoring your credit report.
Credit monitoring services are available from companies such as Lifelock, Complete ID, IdentityForce, ID Watchdog, or PrivacyGuard.
Credit monitoring services vary with services and pricing. Review at least three credit monitoring services to determine which may be the best for you and your family.
Utilizing any one of these monitoring services is extremely beneficial. It’s also highly recommended using a combination of at least 2 or more. Especially when you want to receive alerts for any activity taking place on your credit.
Check Your 3 Free Annual Credit Reports.
You can get one free credit report every year. These are from the 3 main credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
There is a way to get one free report from one of the bureaus every four months.
To ensure you spread out the reports to continuously receive your free credit report.
This is done three times a year.
That way you get one free every third of the year and can review each report. Compare each one for discrepancies. Contact credit bureaus for any misinformation.
We have put together an example for you to better understand below.
Know Your Score
Knowing what your credit score is a critical part in noticing if any identity theft may be occuring. If your score has always been in the same bracket, that it has been whether it’s good, extra, or excellent and you see a decrease in your score, then you may be experiencing identity theft.
Once your score takes a hit, it can be hard to recuperate your score back to what it was. It’s very hard to build a high credit score. So you can just imagine that when your score goes really low suddenly, how tough your work is ahead of you.
Many credit monitoring apps update your score weekly. It’s best to use at least two apps that provide your score from different credit bureaus to compare any changes.
The more you have within the ranges of your actual score, the more knowledge you can use to protect your finances.
Lock Your Credit Cards
Many credit card companies now offer for you to be able to lock each credit card and each user attached to that credit card account. This is an extra measure of protection to ensure that no purchases can be transacted without your knowledge.
If you do have subscriptions and recurring bills, then you will get a notification that you will need to retry the payment.
If a notification comes through that a purchase that you are unaware of has been declined, then you have a safety measure of protection to call the credit card company and ensure they do not let that purchase go through at all.
Freeze Your Credit
There are benefits to freezing your credit. It prevents identity theft and you are in control of your credit and your identity.
When your credit is frozen it means that there can be no inquiries into your status. This also means that if you are to apply for employment a mortgage insurance or a personal car loan then the credit inquiry cannot go through.
Freezing your credit is a very tedious process. This can take place with each credit bureau individually. They will have a series of security questions for you to provide answers for. The number of questions tends to be around 10 for you to create answers for.
The answers of these questions will need to be noted by you specifically. Such as if you answer which elementary school you went to and you state the name of it and you do not capitalize it then you will need to answer the question the exact same way without the capital. The answers are Capital sensitive.
If you cannot remember the answers or you answer them incorrectly, then you can be locked out. It is extremely difficult to get back in to unfreeze your credit when necessary.
You can freeze your credit yourself by contacting each of the three main credit bureaus individually.
Equifax: Call 800-349-9960 or Equifax.com.
Experian: Call 888‑397‑3742 or Experian.com.
TransUnion: Call 888-909-8872 or TransUnion.com
Have Your Financial Documents go to a Post Office Box
It’s highly recommended that you have your mail go to a post office box. Most definitely your financial mail. The benefit over the USPS versus from a UPS store is that the United States post office is open 24/7.
This means that most post offices have offered for there to be 24/7 access to box renters to get access to their mail. Anytime you want, you can access your mailbox.
The further benefit of having a PO Box for all your credit card statements and bank statements is that you have a steady address.
Such as, if you were to live in Las Vegas and you move around the city every couple years switching apartments, then you will have a consistent address on the credit reports and they would not know that you have moved so much. This creates stability and makes you less of a credit risk.
Most post office boxes can be rented for under $100 per year. That is less than $8 Per month. Quite a bargain for security!
You can learn more about USPS box rentals by clicking here.
Do Not Store Your Debit or Credit Card Information
Many shopping carts may save your credit card information automatically. You enter your credit or debit card information once, and then conveniently save it for you. This is to prevent you from having to re-enter the data and to encourage you to shop more often.
A popular one known for this is Amazon. The objective is to provide convenience to your shopping experience so you don’t have to continuously enter your credit card details repeatedly. Instead, the shops will store it for you.
This is actually bad to have your debit or credit card info saved. Especially if the e-commerce business has a data breach, which consumers may not find out about until many months later.
Look for the option to not save financial data. Many sites now have to provide a checkbox to opt-in or opt-out. These options have to be provided. If they are not, do not shop on that website.
Opt Out of Prescreened Offers
Many have experienced receiving that preapproved credit card offer in the mail from time to time. Some may get more credit card offers than others.
These are prescreened offers. It means that credit card companies and even insurance companies will have access to the basics of your credit.
With this, they will periodically screen your credit for your latest status to determine if they will offer you their products. Some may view this as good or bad.
The major issue is that such companies did not get permission to access your basic info. It is best to know who is reviewing your credit by you specifically applying to them. Regardless if it is a soft or hard hit to your credit.
Your best protection is truly to opt out of prescreened credit and insurance offers. This will help you to not have so many inquiries to your credit for one.
When there are multiple inquiries on your credit, it does affect your score. The more it happens, then the more likely your score will go down. It will look as if you are shopping for different offers even though you did not solicit them.
It’s best to opt out for your benefit. Further if you are tempted with a credit card offer and you are not ready to increase your credit then you will not be tempted to further have another credit card balance.
You can opt out of credit card offers such as through the link below.
Shred Financial Documents and Credit Offers
You hopefully have heard and are aware the best protection of your data is to shred your documents. This includes bank, credit union, insurance, medical, mail address labels, school records, and of course, credit card offers.
As we mentioned above, any credit card or loan offers you receive need to be ripped and/or shredded. You need to make sure no one can gather the data on any mailing and apply for credit in your name.
If you don’t have a shredder, you can purchase an inexpensive one for your convenience. You can also rip each item yourself. Keep a separate bag for ripped times. Never throw them out together with your trash.
You can also find a Shred-a-thon event near you. These shredding events offer to shred your documents for free. You can click here to search for Shred-It events.
Use Single Private Browser Window When Checking Financial Sites
Use a private browser window separately from your other browsing windows. Use the private window to check your financial accounts and close the window when you are finished.
If you check your financial websites such as your banks, credit unions or credit card from a regular window, it is best to clear cookies BEFORE. If not, clear all cookies when done.
Use a Credit App
It’s best to use the app for your bank or credit cards. Whether it is American Express, Capital One or Chase, it’s best to use their app to ensure your financial data is secure.
You can even use myFICO https://www.myfico.com (requires paid service), Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. These apps are great for checking your credit score.
Credit Karma and Credit Sesame help you get the overview of your credit. They can offer recommendations to grow your score and give snapshots of what you can do to improve your score.
Make sure they are 256 bit encrypted. You can review that under the information where you get the app in the App Store on Apple or the Google Play Store.
Know the Credit Code
There’s a secret code to know when it comes to credit. Many may think that if they get a credit card, then they can just spend and spend until they go to the maximum spending limit. Remember the joke: How can I be overdrawn my bank account when I still have checks?!?!?
The rule of thumb is that you have no more than one third of your credit used at any given time on a credit card.
For example, if your credit limit is $1,000, then you should never have a balance higher than ⅓ of that. That is $300.
This method has you utilizing no more than 30-33% of your credit available at any given time. That means you should always have at least 67-70% of your credit available at any time.
Sounds like a good amount of credit available, right? Exactly! That is the point. Remember, you need to consistently look good on paper and have a strong credit history.
Think of the debt-to-income ratio. You can access Bankrate’s calculator here.
Know Credit Limits before Applying for Mortgages and Loans
To go even further, there’s another secret you need to know if you will need to make a major purchase.
The limit of credit balances to have for 3 consecutive months is no more than 12% of your credit limit.
If you need to buy a car or plan to buy a house, including applying for a mortgage or a vehicle loan, then you need to keep your credit card balances low. This means not utilizing more than 10-12% of your available credit.
Same as above, if your credit limit is $1,000, then you should not use more than $120 for a balance. This helps keep your debt to income ratio low.
That means you should have 88-90% of your credit limits be available prior to applying for major loans. This should be for a minimum of 3 month. The longer you can maintain this ratio, the better.
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Get Help with Debt
Accruing debt is very serious. Debt has a way of growing out of control. Ignoring debt does not make it go away. Debt makes one a great risk and extremely difficult to have on your credit report.
It’s best to address any issues with any debts that you may have with the creditor. This includes if you miss a payment or two. This is still a great time to work out the best scenarios for yourself.
After that, your account could be sent into a debt collector. This is where your credit will start to be destroyed for the next seven years. This is the time you want to avoid!
There are many ways to get help with debt. Especially if it’s still in the first few months.
Here’s a resource to help you with any debt you may have are listed below.
We cannot encourage people enough to go out of their way personally to protect their financial information. You have worked for the money and it’s important for you to be able to keep your money. Take the time to implement these tips and ensure your own safety.
You can subscribe to a credit protection monitoring service any time. We actually encourage you to have at least two credit monitoring services. Having more than one helps you have a comparison should one lag behind the other.
We believe that together these tips can provide significant protection for your financial data. It’s up to you to keep your information protected.
Stay safe out there!