How Do I Find My Credit Report?

Glasses and pen on a table with a graph.

Building credit is an important task for all Americans. You may have seen commercials or advertisements that reference credit scores and how to view or raise them. Your credit report and credit score are key to being able to purchase a car, house or open any new line of credit. You may be wondering; how do I find my credit report? Well, it is very easy to find, and we will help you learn what to look for when you read it. Knowing some of the key red flags will help you potentially spot identity theft as quickly as possible.

How Do I Find My Credit Report?

All Americans are entitled to receive one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) per year. You can obtain your credit report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. This website is authorized by US federal law, so you can feel safe knowing inputting any necessary information.

We recommend spreading out when you obtain your free credit reports. If you were to get the first one in January, the second in May and the third in September, you’d be able to keep an eye on your credit file throughout the entire year. If you’re afraid you may be a victim of identity theft, you can always obtain all three at once if you want to cover all your bases.

What Should I Look For When I Receive My Credit Report?

  • Your Information – Is all of your personal information correct?
  • Credit Accounts – Do you recognize all the accounts listed in your report? Do the payment histories for each of them look correct? If not, you should dig further and report any discrepancies.
  • Credit Inquiries – Hard inquiries will show up on your credit report when you apply for a new line of credit and the creditor requests to view your file. These hard inquiries do affect your credit report, so you should limit the frequency with which you apply for new lines of credit. Soft inquiries will show on your report when companies or organizations are looking to offer you a line of credit. These will not affect your credit report, but you should keep an eye on them. Do recognize all the hard inquiries? If not, you should notify the credit reporting agency right away.
  • Credit Score – Okay, so your credit score isn’t actually listed on your credit report, but it’s still very important. It’s also easy to find. Many banks and credit cards will supply you with your credit score for free. Otherwise, you can purchase your score from an entity such as FICO, or obtain them for free from a website like Credit Karma. What is your credit score? This number is an indication of how good your overall credit is. All lines of credit in your name, making payments on time and without missing as well as any hard inquiries will affect your credit score. As a point of reference, here are some ranges that can give you an idea how your score stacks up:
    • 720-850 is Excellent
    • 690-719 is Good
    • 630-689 is Fair
    • 300-629 is Bad

How do I find my credit report? Now you know! You should take advantage of the free reports so that you can keep an eye on your file. Any unrecognizable inquiries may be a tip off that your identity has been stolen. The faster you can identify identity theft, the easier it is to recover it. 

Five Tips For Social Media Safety

Man holding an iPhone opened to an Instagram profile.

Social media is one of the best ways to keep in touch with old friends and family or keep yourself entertained. However, it can also put a target on your back for scammers (or self-inflicted damage) if you don’t know how to protect yourself. Below we will give you five tips for social media safety which you can use to help safeguard yourself from unwanted attacks.

Five Tips For Social Media Safety

  • Watch what you post online. This is a multi-layered issue. You must be careful what information you post on social media because any sensitive information could be used in a possible identity theft. However, you also must watch what you post. People such as potential employers, love interests or landlords could use this information to vet you in the future. Many of us feel that social media is our safe space, when in fact it could a landmine that is waiting to explode.
  • Use unique, strong passwords for all social media accounts. You should have a different password for every website or app you log into. It can be difficult to remember a bunch of passwords, so a password manager is a great option.
  • Avoid clicking ads on social media. While you may think that a massive website such as Facebook would never allow a scam ad to be posted, it happens much more frequently than you realize. You may click a link for a great deal on an item you’ve been wanting. The website may look legitimate. However, you may pay for the item and never receive it. Knowing how to spot a secure website can also help you from becoming a victim of this type of scam.
  • Strengthen your privacy settings. All social media apps and websites give you the ability to change your privacy settings. You can set it up to where only your friends can see your posts and you can also use settings to prevent tracking.
  • Be wary of random private messages. If you receive messages from people you don’t know, especially regarding topics you’ve posted about on social media, be very careful. Phishers and scammers are becoming very clever, so you must keep your guard up.

For all the positives social media brings, there certainly come some downsides with it. Use these tips to help keep yourself safe while still enjoying your time online. 

Identity Theft Red Flags

Red flag waving in front of a blue, clouded sky

One of the scariest things about identity theft is that it is something that you can’t detect until after it happens. Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop it from happening once your information falls into the wrong hands. The most important thing you can do though is to detect fraudulent activity and report it as quickly as possible. The faster you get started correcting the issue, the easier it will be. You need to be aware of some identity theft red flags that you can use to jump into action.

Identity Theft Red Flags

  • Stolen Credit or Debit Card/Money Taken From Bank Account
    • Tip: You should check your credit card and bank statement weekly, if not daily. If you see any unauthorized transactions, contact your financial institution immediately. Sign up to receive email or text alerts whenever there is a new transaction. This is the fastest way to detect shady activity.
  • Multiple Tax Returns Filed Under Your Name
    • Tip: If you receive a letter from the IRS that there are more than one tax returns filed in your name, this is a major red flag for identity theft. Also, if you receive a W-2 or 1099 from an employer you don’t work for, this should set off an alarm.
  • Lines of Credit Opened In Your Name
    • Tip:  Check your credit report as frequently as possible. You can receive three free reports per year, one from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to receive your free report. It is best to use one free credit report every four months so that you can monitor your credit throughout the year.
  • Unemployment Fraud
    • Tip: If you receive a notice from your employer or your state unemployment office regarding unemployment benefits you didn’t apply for, you may be a victim. Unemployment fraud has been one of the most common forms of identity theft since the pandemic started. 

The easiest way to nip identity theft in the bud is to sign up with an identity theft restoration service before you become a victim. A service such as ReclaimMyID will work until your identity is restored to 100% of its pre-theft status.

Keep an eye out for these identity theft red flags and you’ll be in the best position to catch the culprits as quickly as possible.

Start Using A Password Manager

Man holding cell phone with login screen on phone tablet and computer screens

Social media, banking apps, email and shopping websites are just a few of the various online mediums that most Americans use every day. One thing that all of these have in common are that they all require a password to log in. The average American has over 100 passwords to remember. If you’re like 75% of Americans who struggle with keeping track of passwords, start using a password manager. The accounts you log in to hold a variety of important personal information, so you should take your privacy and security seriously.

What is a password manager?

A password manager is a secure, virtual storage device where you can house all of your passwords safely. Using a password manager will allow you to easily access a password when you need it without having to remember off the top of your head. 

The most important thing that a password allows you to do is create unique, strong passwords for every site you log in to. Many of us get so tired of trying to remember all our passwords that we end up using simple passwords or using the same password for every site. It’s extremely important to vary your passwords and make them strong (around 12 characters using upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols) so that they are more difficult to hack. Many password managers will create strong passwords for you which is a nice feature.

There are three types of password managers: 

  • Local – Passwords are stored locally in a password manager on your device.
  • Cloud-Based – Your passwords are stored by the vendor in their data center. 
  • Portable – Passwords are stored in a password manager which is housed on a USB drive.

There are pros and cons to each type of password manager. A cloud-based manager (most popular) allows you to access your passwords anywhere you can access the internet. However, there is a very slim chance that the vendor could encounter a data breach. Locally based managers can only be accessed at home and portable devices can be lost or hacked. The choice is up to you. Choose one that works best for your needs. 

Keeping your information safe is the key to preventing identity theft. Your passwords are the key to unlocking some of your most important information. Start using a password manager – you can protect yourself while not having to remember so many passwords. 

Don’t Fall For Family Emergency Scams

Elderly woman holding phone in right hand up to ear

If a family member called you and asked for your help, would you? Most of us would answer “yes” to this question. However, many people in America who have actually helped “loved ones” are being duped by imposters. Scammers have come up with some very elaborate schemes to take advantage of caring individuals looking to support their kin. Please take a few minutes to read the tips in this article so you don’t fall for family emergency scams.

What Are Family Emergency Scams?

A family emergency scam is one that involves someone pretending to be a family member in distress, an authority figure such as a lawyer or police officer, or a combination of both. 

As an example, a “family member” may call you saying that they are in urgent need of your help. In this case, help would be monetarily. They may inform you that a “lawyer” or “police officer” will contact you and you will receive a call from them immediately. 

You will be pressured to send money immediately and to keep it a secret from everyone. If you were to ask others in your family about the situation, you may find out it’s a scam

What To Do If You Receive A Family Emergency Call

  • Hang Up. This may seem heartless, but you should never send money under a time constraint while under immense pressure.
  • Call the loved one back. You may find that the actual loved one the imposters were pretending to be is perfectly fine. You may find out that they’re actually in need of your help if it wasn’t a scam. Either way, you will know for sure. 
  • Call others in your family. If you can’t reach the intended family member, call others in their close family. Hopefully, one of their family members will be able to clear up whether there is really an issue.

The moral of the story is: support your family but be smart and don’t panic. Don’t fall for family emergency scams so that you’ll have the means to help when someone actually needs it.

Avoiding Auto Warranty Robocall Scams

Woman on call phone standing in front of two crashed cars

Almost everyone has received an automated call where “someone” is trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty. Auto warranty robocalls have become so popular they’ve even spawned a variety of memes. While you may realize these calls are a scam and may have to intention of falling for it, you may not realize exactly how to deal with these calls. Avoiding auto warranty robocall scams is easy if you know what to do.

Auto Warranty Robocall Scams

First, let’s go through a rundown of what one of these calls might sound like. A “person”, usually with a generic name, saying they’re with the “Service Department” and tells you that your car warranty is set to expire. They say they’ve tried to reach you in various ways and if you don’t respond they will close your file. Many of these calls will ask you to press a button if you wish to renew your warranty or press a different button if you wish to remove yourself from the list. 

These calls may sound like they’re coming from your auto dealer or manufacturer, but they almost always are not. These types of robocalls are illegal. If you were to “extend your warranty”, you would actually be purchasing a service contract. In most of these scams, the fine print says that the contract actually won’t cover any issues you may have with your car. This isn’t to say that all service contracts are bad, but you should never purchase one through an unsolicited call.

How To Deal With Auto Warranty Robocall Scams

  1. Hang up immediately. Never press any buttons or engage with these calls. The longer you stay on the line, the higher your chances of becoming a victim.
  2. Report the call to the National Do Not Call Registry.  You can report the call at DoNotCall.gov.

As you can see, avoiding auto warranty robocall scams is very simple: hang up. You should always be on guard when answering any unsolicited call from unknown numbers. Scams are on the rise, so be careful. 

Stay Safe On Public WiFi

Man holding cellphone with logos of internet activities.

Our phones (and computers) have become an integral part of our lives. Whether we need information, to pay a bill or to keep in touch with loved ones, we use our devices and the internet. We are almost conditioned to look for a WiFi network whenever we’re out and about. WiFi can be very helpful as it can save your data, but it can also be a major pitfall. Criminals can use these networks to steal your information. Stay safe on public WiFi networks using the tips below. 

The Risks Of Public WiFi

If you’re out and about and you pull up your phone to search for a WiFi network, chances are you will see a few options. No matter where you are, you can almost always find a WiFi connection. Convenient, yes. More chances to become a victim of identity theft, also yes. 

Public WiFi can be dangerous specifically because it is public. Everyone who is connected to a WiFi network is sending their information through the same, shared space. As a user, you would never know this and it would never be an issue. However, there are many ways that criminals can intercept information from point A to point B. This is completely different from your home WiFi which should be password protected. Here are a few specific examples of how you could become a victim.

  • MITM Attacks – Man-in-the-middle or MITM attacks are the most common way for thieves to steal your information over WiFi. The way it works is that a hacker will insert their device between point A (you) and point B (where you are sending information). In the short time your information is traveling from point A to point B, the hacker can log and capture your information. 
  • Snooping/Sniffing – A packet sniffer is a kit that criminals can use to take data packets which contain sensitive information. Packet sniffers aren’t always used in nefarious ways, but they are one way for hackers to steal your information. 
  • Rogue networks – You should never connect to a WiFi network that comes from an unknown source. Criminals can set up public WiFi networks with the intent of stealing your information. You will be able to access the internet, but you’ll also have your data captured. Oftentimes, these rogue networks will have a name very similar to a nearby, trusted network. 

Protecting Yourself On Public WiFi

If you want to stay safe on public WiFi, you have to follow a few key steps. The most effective way to safely use public WiFi is to use a VPN (virtual private network) which creates a pipeline within a public WiFi network which is secure. If you’re not using a VPN, take heed of the following information.

  • Never send important information while connected to public WiFi. Would you stand up in the middle of a Starbucks and shout out your credit card or Social Security number? Absolutely not. Don’t send important e-mails, log in to important websites or make purchases using a credit card while using a public network. If you do, this information could be stolen. 
  • Turn off WiFi unless you’re actually using it. The less time you’re connected to the network, the less opportunity hackers have to collect information. 
  • Turn off the automatic connection feature on your phone. Also, turn off the “remember this network” feature. This will allow you to connect to WiFi only when you desire. 
  • Always keep your apps and devices up to date. When an update is released for your phone or an app, it is often specifically for security purposes. Failure to update to the latest version can put you at serious risk. 
  • Don’t connect to a network if you’re unsure of its origin. If you’re at a restaurant and you’re unsure which network is their official network, ask an employee. 
  • Never install software over public WiFi.

WiFi can be a convenient tool if used properly. Follow the basic safety rules in order to stay safe on public WiFi. 

What Is Ransomware?

Man sitting at laptop which shows a map and a lock.

Most of us are conscious of the fact that viruses, or malware (malicious software), can corrupt our computers and devices. Malware is constantly changing and adapting to become more difficult to detect. Scammers are finding new ways to infiltrate your system and take advantage. One of the newer and more dangerous forms of malware is ransomware. You might be asking, what is ransomware? 

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of malware that is used to encrypt your most important files so that you cannot access them. In order to remove the encryption, thieves will require that you pay a ‘ransom’. These ransom payments are often required to be paid using Bitcoin or other anonymous cryptocurrency. In 2019, ransomware cost Americans approximately $7.5 billion in losses. During the pandemic, ransomware has increased by a whopping 715%. Ransomware is generally targeted at businesses, but individuals are also at risk. 

In short, ransomware is popular because it is successful. Thieves will encrypt your most important files which leaves you with no way to access them. This leaves you two options: pay the ransom or lose access to the files for good. Many businesses or individuals will simply pay the ransom in order to get the ordeal over with. Thieves are able to coerce you into giving them money instead of having to actually steal it. 

How Does It Work?

  1. Infiltrate.  Ransomware attacks generally start with a phishing email that will contain a file which seems to be trustworthy. Oftentimes, the email will look very convincing as if it is from a trusted source. Once the file is opened, the malware will gain access to your system. Another avenue of infiltration is “malvertising.” an advertisement which contains the ransomware.
  2. Encrypt. Once the malware is downloaded, hackers will have access to all of the files in your computer/device/system. Hackers will then choose to encrypt the files that they deem to be the most important which will restrict access to those with a specific decryption key. 
  3. Extort. Once your files have been encrypted, thieves will demand payment of a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. This key will allow you to regain access to your files. Often, ransomware will come with a “countdown” which only gives the infected a few days to pay the ransom. This is another tactic which pushes the infected party toward paying the ransom. 
  4. Remove. After paying the ransom, you will receive the decryption key, thus regaining access to your files. However, the ransomware isn’t actually removed from your device until someone manually removes it. 

Ransomware is scary because all it takes is one wrong click and you could be in a world of hurt. What is ransomware? Hopefully, one answer to that question is: “Something you never have to experience.”

Identity Theft Awareness Week 2021

Identity Theft Awareness Week February 1-5 2021

February 1st through 5th is Identity Theft Awareness Week 2021, brought to you by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). We hope to use this opportunity to help you up your security game! 

Identity Theft grows to be a greater concern each and every year. The more we intertwine our everyday lives with technology, the more opportunity thieves have to access your information. In 2020 (and continuing into 2021), we all faced many unique challenges. COVID-19 upended all of our lives and many of us faced hardships. Identity thieves didn’t take it easy on Americans just because of a pandemic. Instead, they used it to add new scams and schemes to their arsenal. Some of the newest scams included Coronavirus stimulus scams, employment scams and COVID-19 vaccine scams. Now, more than ever, we all need to tighten up on our security in order to protect ourselves and our families.

Suggested Articles For Identity Theft Awareness Week 2021:

Your security is important. Your information holds the key to much of what you hold dear. For someone to obtain your information illegally, it could mean financial and mental hardship. You need someone who has your back in case you become a victim of identity theft. Subscribing to an identity theft restoration service, such as ReclaimMyID, will provide you with someone to put in the time and effort to get your identity restored to 100% of its pre-theft status. Having an identity theft restoration service on your side can save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.

We hope that you use Identity Theft Awareness Week 2021 as the impetus to safeguard your information and stay up to date with the latest scams and schemes.

COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

Many COVID-19 Vaccine Vials

As the new Coronavirus vaccines begin to roll out, many Americans are chomping at the bit to get in line. Fear of contracting the virus can cloud judgement, and scammers are taking advantage of this vulnerability. As you wait for your opportunity to get vaccinated, please be aware of COVID-19 vaccine scams that are making the rounds. We will tell you what to look for so that you don’t become a victim.

How To Spot COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

While we wait our turn to receive the Coronavirus vaccine, we have to keep our eyes open to possible scams. Here are a few guidelines to follow in order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

  • Anyone claiming to offer early access to the vaccine is a scam. If you receive a text, call, email or even a solicitor at your door who claims to have this power, disregard it. No one has the ability to offer early access. 
  • You can’t pay to get your name on “the list”. Everyone has to follow the same rules, so if someone asks you to pay to get on a list, it’s a scam. 
  • You shouldn’t have to pay for the vaccine. Insurance should cover the vaccine due to the pandemic being a public health emergency. 
  • No one involved in the vaccination process, such as a private insurance company, will call and ask for personal information. If you receive a call or email asking you to provide your Social Security number or any other sensitive, personal information, this is an extreme red flag. Never provide personal information to unsolicited parties. 

In order to receive the vaccine as quickly as possible, stay informed on the procedures and guidelines in your area. All of the information needed will be provided by your state and local government. Sources outside of the government who try to deviate from official plans are very likely COVID-19 vaccine scams. Please stay safe and report any scamming attempts to the Federal Trade Commission.