Lock your credit score
Everyone needs preparation procedures for dealing with major disaster events. This includes preparing your family, pets and property for extreme weather situations. Let's take a moment to review the information and sites you can use to stay current on scams associated with disaster-related events.

Start out by reviewing your credit report and the ability fraudsters have to access your credit information. You wouldn't leave your home unlocked during time away! Consider contacting an agency to secure and lock your credit.

This is one of the easiest ways to safeguard yourself from identity theft. However, your concern should not just be limited to fraudsters opening new accounts in your name when they steal your identity. You can also protect your credit reputation from insider attacks. (For more information on how this can happen, read about Confessions of an ID Theft Kingpin Part 1 & 2.)

When freezing credit you stop your personal identifiable information, like financial habits, from being revealed. By activating a freeze with all three major bureaus you prevent fraudsters from using any of your compromised personal identifiable information to apply for credit cards or other loans. Fraudsters may intend to reissue items with changes that benefit them or even apply for a job. (Note - you also prevent companies from researching you for legitimate reasons like your own job applications.) While this creates additional steps for these application processes, it protects your personal identifiable information around the clock and helps reduce the value of any breached information.

When lifting a credit freeze, or temporary removal of a credit freeze, you make maintaining a lock a nonevent. In the past, this could cost a significant amount of money and complexity to maintain. Now, there are no longer any costs to freeze or unfreeze your credit report. This is thanks to the enactment of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. While there are many third-party companies providing similar services, you should always start with the credit bureaus.

Credit Reporting Agency Contact Information:

Additional areas to stay vigilant when disasters strike.

  • Identify clean-up and repair emails and calls. Unlicensed contractors and scammers may quickly appear with promises to make repairs. Many times an upfront payment is requested with no intent to complete the work.
  • Imposter scams come in many varieties. They will likely try to gain your trust quickly so that you will send payment.
  • Be aware of potential rental listing scams if displaced from your home. 
  • Disaster-related charity scams often try to make a quick profit from the misfortune of others. Check with the FTC’s Charity Scams information and review the organization with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for additional information.

Excellent safety practices for periodic review.

  • Review your credit report annually, and without an impact to your score, with one free informational report.
  • Monitor your active accounts for fraudulent activity such as new loans or charge accounts.
  • Review current threats to consumers using the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) site.
  • Be aware of breaking news stories such as data breaches or natural disasters.
  • Secure and safeguard your essential documents and login information.
Finally, use Multi-Factor Authentication Security options whenever available. Even if someone discovers your password, accounts with MFA enabled would require this additional code before access to the account is authorized. Mass data breaches may expose reused passwords, and using MFA on accounts gives you extra time to change these passwords.

Bob Bender

Bob Bender
Founders CTO

If you have questions about this article or other cybersecurity issues, please email CTOCorner@foundersfcu.com.