January 5, 2015

Three Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Finances in Less Than an Hour

1. Take a look at what's in your wallet

One time a college professor (you can visit her blog here) told us to pull out a piece of paper and write down EVERYTHING in our wallet. When we were done with our list we were then to pull out our wallet and compare the contents to our list, the point being that if we didn't know it was there it shouldn't be there.
That store credit card you signed up for 3 years ago to get a great deal, but have only used once or twice since? Imagine if your wallet got stolen and you forgot that card was in there because you've forgotten you have it. You responsibly cancel all your other credit cards, but the thief can still max that one out.
If you don't know you have it, perhaps reevaluate whether or not you should have it.

2. Cancel cards you don't need and relocate items you need but don't use regularly 

Place infrequently used items in a safe-deposit box, a safe, a locking drawer, or some sort of safe place.
These might include an HSA or FSA card, a debit card for a second account, a credit card you only use for large purchases, a store card, etc.

AND if you're still carrying your Social Security card in your wallet, STOP IT!
You're making yourself an easy target for identity theft.

3. Pull a copy of your credit report here.

Not your credit score, they're two different things.

A Credit Score is basically a grade of how you use credit that is available to you, it's only important to know your credit score if you're considering borrowing money.

A Credit Report is a record of your financial dealings.
It will show all the lenders who have extended credit or loans to you.
It will show whether you pay on time, the amount of your payments, the total amount of your loan or credit limit.
It may show current or previous employers.
It will show short-sales, foreclosures, bankruptcy and other matters of public record.

Federal law entitles you to one free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau every twelve months.
There are 3 credit bureaus
Equifax    and
So that's a total of 3 reports per year.

If it's your first time pulling your credit report, the recommendation is to pull all 3 at the same time.
Look over all of them and make sure there are no errors.

If you've looked at your report before then it's a great idea to pull one report every 4 months, start with one credit bureau now and then in 4 months pull the next, and so forth until you're back to the one you started with, this allows you to regularly monitor your credit for errors or signs of identity theft, for FREE.

Many websites will give you access to your "Free" credit report and "Free" credit score, but you end up paying for credit monitoring.
AnnualCreditReport.com is actually free. It is set up by the 3 credit bureaus to provide you with your Federally Mandated FREE access to your credit report.

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