Credit Protection: 2 Ways to Safeguard Information

In a world of sophisticated hackers and identity thieves, credit protection is important to safeguard your personal information. The good news is there are more tools than ever at your disposal. We believe the best strategy is a two-pronged approach: prevent any new accounts from being opened without your permission and monitor the sources of credit you already have. Here’s how.

1. Set up a credit freeze so accounts can’t be opened in your name

If you think of your credit as a house, the first way to protect it is by installing a strong lock. A credit freeze on each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) prevents anyone from opening new accounts in your name. This means a thief can’t open a new credit card or apply for a loan in your name.

One caveat to this strategy is that while no thief can open new accounts, neither can you (without taking additional steps). For example, if you are at the checkout counter and the clerk offers to sign you up for the store card to save 10% off your purchase—you won’t be able to open this card while your freeze is in place. Some people may consider this extra obstacle to impulse buying a positive, but for others, it’s a nuisance. However, pausing your credit freeze takes mere minutes and can be done either online or over the phone. You can also specify a range of time to pause your credit freeze, such as during a period when you plan to be shopping for a new car or looking for a new apartment.

We’ve found that the simplest way to set up a credit freeze is either online at the credit bureau’s website or via mail. During the process, you will create a PIN that you will use to pause or lift credit freezes in the future. Be sure to choose a strong PIN and guard it carefully.

2. Establish credit monitoring so you can spot unusual activity

Thinking back to the house example: while your lock will discourage any new thieves, what do you do if a thief made it inside before the lock was installed? Similarly, what do you do if someone gains access to your account number? Think of a credit monitoring service as your security camera.

Credit monitoring services carefully watch your open accounts and lines of credit and report any unusual or malicious activity. These services can also review whether your personal information (such as your Social Security number) is used for any fraudulent purposes.

Many credit monitoring companies also include services to help you if identity theft does occur. We’ve found that a good credit monitoring service will:

  • Monitor all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion)
  • Monitor the dark web and alert you if they discover any of your personal information posted
  • Include identity theft insurance to help cover the costs of resolving any credit disputes

When choosing a credit monitoring company, review the services offered between competitors. Services can range from basic to more comprehensive and result in a wide range of prices. Note that many companies offer free monitoring services, but there is often a trade-off between price and quality of coverage.

While credit freezes and monitoring services are important steps to take toward credit protection, it is important to stay proactive about protecting your identity. Some examples would be choosing strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication and shredding unneeded documents that have personal information before you throw them away.

Please consult with your Wealth Advisor for more information about setting up credit freezes or choosing a credit monitoring service or for more credit protection recommendations.


Eileen Stevens

Eileen Stevens

Associate Wealth Advisor

As an Associate Wealth Advisor at the firm, Eileen is responsible for conducting financial planning analyses, formulating investment recommendations, and assisting the Wealth Advisors in developing and presenting strategies to help clients in reaching their financial goals. Eileen graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and concentration in Financial Planning. Prior to joining the firm in 2020, Eileen spent five years at a wealth management firm in Columbia, South Carolina, specializing in closely held family businesses. She earned the CFP® designation in 2016. Eileen has volunteered as an instructor and mentor with Rock the Street, Wall Street, a nonprofit organization aimed to equip high-school girls with the skills to succeed financially and pursue a career in mathematics. She also serves on the Genesis Committee for the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), sharing the finance career path with students and engaging young planners in a peer-to-peer networking group.

In her free time, Eileen enjoys traveling, taking cooking classes, and learning French.


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