BUZ LIVINGSTON: A bigger concern

Buz Livingston

Unless you live under a rock, you can’t miss the stock market hullabaloo. Worry more about the data security breach at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The access point has been closed however data could be compromised. Letters are being sent to taxpayers who may be at risk. From the IRS: “The IRS believes some of this information may have been gathered for potentially filing fraudulent tax returns during the upcoming 2016 filing season so anyone receiving a letter should take steps to protect themselves by taking advantage of the free credit monitoring and IP PIN (personal identification number) which can be used to verify the authenticity of next year’s tax return.” (emphasis added).

Next on your agenda, check your credit report at FreeCreditReport.com. Request reports from all three credit reporting services, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. If you find an error, contact the agency immediately. Regardless if you get a letter or not, take advantage of the free credit monitoring options from creditsesame.com or credit.com. Warning: You will get credit card solicitations but opt-out. Monthly you will receive an updated credit score. If your credit score changes by more than 25 or 30 points for no reason, investigate immediately. Personally I like the monthly reminders from creditsesame.com. Since I don’t check my credit report like I should, the monthly updates act like an early warning system.

Unless you are an identity theft victim, placing a credit freeze on your file is laborious and can have unintended consequences. With a credit freeze in place, if you want an insurance quote or to change phone providers you will have to lift the freeze. Removing the freeze costs $10 and replacing it costs another $10 but free for ID theft victims. A credit freeze totally locks your credit.

Identity theft will plague you for the rest of your life, you can run but you can’t hide. To protect yourself, monitor your credit cards. You are online anyway; check activity on a regular basis. Instead of limiting all credit, consider placing a fraud alert at one of the three credit reporting services. An alert only lasts for 90 days and can be removed at any time.

While technically not identity theft, credit card fraud is the most prevalent form of what most of us consider identify theft. When someone uses your credit card, they are not assuming your identity or opening accounts in your name. Never, ever use a debit card. Credit card fraud, if promptly reported, can be reversed. Debit cards have less protection.

With our credit cards, we notify card issuers when we travel. Once I got a call. “Mr. Livingston, we noticed unusual activity on your card from Georgia." I told them not to worry my wife and daughter were in Atlanta. “Mr. Livingston, you don’t understand. There has not been this type of financial destruction since Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee marched to the sea.”

Sure it’s a hassle to call them, but it’s a First World problem.

While you can’t always get what you want Buz Livingston, CFP can help you figure out what you need but don’t consider this personal advice. For specific recommendations visit us online at livingstonfinancial.net or come by our office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230. Follow us on Twitter @BuzLivingston