Cybershock! Are Your Financial Accounts Secure?

René Nourse, CFP® |

Protect Your Accounts in the New/Next Normal

As we can all probably agree, 2020 has been an extremely difficult and challenging year. My thought has been that the reason 2020 has been so defying is that—we hope!—it's clearing up the rest of the 2020s. We are kicking out all of the nastiness for the next 10 years!

Having said that, so many different elements have impacted our personal, professional, and financial lives. Recently—despite my sensibility of providing strong oversight of my personal, professional, and business life—something wonky happened to me. Thankfully, I have a strong supporter in the form of an identity theft protection service, which provides updates and announcements should any unexpected financial activity occur.

In early September, I received a text message and a voicemail from my identity theft service provider, to confirm if I had applied for a new credit card account. Well, H#LL no! I responded immediately, and the application was shut down. Thank God! Although I’ve been a subscriber with this service provider for 10 years, this was the first time I’ve personally had an identity theft issue. I learned a lot during those few days that I want to share with you, and I highly recommend implementing these steps to provide security for your financial life.

1. Freeze It.

Put a freeze on all your credit-balanced accounts through all of the credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. This request will suspend the opening of any new accounts without your consent. This is extremely important since it will prevent anyone trying to establish an account in your name, even if they have some of your personal info, since background checks do need to occur. I highly recommend doing this with all of your accounts NOW. There is no cost to do so, and it will protect your financial and personal data.

2. Open It.

If you are in the process of opening a new account, refinancing, or whatever, you can “unfreeze/unlock” that particular account quickly by logging in or calling the credit reporting agencies. You can also establish a timeline for unlocking and opening your credit background. For example, I am in the process of refinancing my mortgage. I let my mortgage company know that my credit accounts were frozen and that I would allow them to have access for one day only. They pulled the data they needed within a couple of hours.

3. Lock It.

We all need to protect our personal data and content. Sign up with an identity theft protection service. I use LifeLock; however, there are several reputable providers you can choose from. The important thing is to get it now and lock your accounts down. We’ve heard about several major hacking incidents in the past few years. It’s extremely important to protect your personal data and your credit by using an identity theft platform and periodically checking your credit scores and accounts through all of the reporting agencies. (Identity theft platforms typically provide you access to view your credit scores and accounts.) Research has shown that, when there are hacks, identity theft actions don’t take place right away—often they occur months or even years later. Over the next few years, I believe there will be more incidents of hacking and stealing of our personal and online information. So get started and protect your financial life now.

At the end of the day, this year has taught us a number of lessons. The New—no, Next—Normal phase is about establishing protective mechanisms for our families, our health, our wealth, and our financial lives. Get ready for the rest of the decade.