Kalamazoo Real Estate – As you have probably heard, one of the “big” three credit bureaus recently announced that a massive hack has exposed the personal information of up to 143 million people. To add perspective to that statement, that is about two-thirds of American credit card holders or close to half the population of the United States. Part of protecting your credit is being vigilant and making it difficult for thieves to steal your identity.
Take action against identity theft
The first thing we suggest (and we believe this is the most important step you should take) is to sign up for identity protection service. There are companies that provide insurance and will cover you if you fall victim to identity theft. We personally use and recommend a program provided by Zander Insurance. Another great insurance you should invest in is One Sure Insurance. This is a program that is cheaper and more comprehensive than any of the other programs that we are aware of. It is a program that is endorsed by Dave Ramsey. It covers the following:
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Here is a link to the identity theft program recommended by the Veenstra Real Estate Team. (We do not have any affiliation to this company and we don’t make any money by recommending it–we just want you to know what we think is the best!)
In case you are wondering how it compares with other programs, here is some additional information that shows how that program compares with some of the other, perhaps more well known identity theft programs.
There are a few other ways that you can monitor your credit yourself too. At lease one of these steps will actually “lock down” your credit.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, an initial step is to place a fraud alert on your account. Contact one credit reporting company (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), tell them you are an identity theft victim and ask the company to put a fraud alert on your credit file. Confirm that the company will contact the other two companies.
The initial fraud alert will make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name. The alert lasts for 90-days and it can be renewed. This protection may be redundant if you purchase Zander’s policy. You should seek clarificatoin from them to know for sure.
A more severe precaution called a credit freeze restricts access to your credit report. A credit freeze makes it more difficult for thieves to use your identity to apply for loans or credit cards in your name, you have to avoid payday loans & build credit score on your own.
By contacting each of the three credit reporting agencies separately, you can request a temporary freeze. This would prevent them from providing credit information without both your explicit permission and a PIN that temporarily lifts the freeze.
Unlike the fraud alerts, the agencies may charge you a fee for instituting the freeze in addition to another fee to lift the freeze each time. We are not sure what the charges may be for adding or removing a freeze, but you should compare those costs to the cost of covering yourself and your family using Zander’s insurance so you can determine what level of risk you want to assume.
A credit freeze will not affect your credit score. If you are in the process of buying a home, contact your loan officer and discuss the decision you are considering. If you will be making a mortgage application in the near future, you can temporarily lift the freeze for the lender you are using.
A trusted mortgage professional is a key team member in purchasing a home. Making an appointment with them is one of the first steps along with determining your real estate professional. Contact us to get a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.
To request a credit freeze, you can do it online or by phone:
Equifax – 800-349-9960 | Experian – 888-397-3742 | Trans Union – 888-909-8872
For more information, see Credit Freeze FAQs at the Federal Trade Commission.
It is also important to personally monitor your credit reports through annual credit report.com to discover any unusual activity. Incorrect information can creep onto your credit report in ways other than by identify theft as well. Keeping an eye on your credit is wise!
Financial Peace University
While we are talking finances. let us tell you about one more important action that you should consider taking. That is to sign up for a Financial Peace University class. Jason Veenstra (one of the Veenstra Real Estate team leaders) and his wife, will be leading this class this fall at his church, the River. This class starts on Monday, October 9 and goes for 9 weeks (6:30PM-8PM). Here is more info http://theriver.info/general/financial-peace-fall-2017/. This year there is also a 4 week long financial peace class for kids AND free child care for kids provided at the church. This is a great class to take if you would like to take charge of your finances! Jason hopes to see you there!
As always, call the Veenstra Real Estate Team if you have any questions, comments or friends who are looking for assistance with their home or commercial buying or selling needs.