Online security is at the top of everyone's mind right now, and rightfully so. Although breaches at national companies have shown us no one is immune to hackers, we want you to know of ways to help protect your identity.
The first step is to check your free credit reports to look for signs of identity theft. Annually, pull your free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Review the reports for errors, correcting any you find, and any signs of identity theft.
Establish a login on the Social Security website before implementing a credit freeze. The Social Security Administration will ask questions from your credit file, so a credit freeze will prevent you from setting up the login while it is in place.
Next, implement a credit freeze, sometimes called security freeze, at each of the three credit bureaus. See left hand margin for credit agency hyperlinks. A credit freeze will stop the credit bureaus from releasing your credit information for new applications. Therefore, when an identity thief tries to open a credit account using your Social Security number, it will be declined. You will receive a Personal Identification Number (PIN) from each of the credit bureaus when you implement the freeze. The PIN is how you lift the credit freeze when you want to allow access to your credit bureau records for a legitimate purpose. Store your PINs someplace safe.
In the past, placing a credit freeze for a minor or a young adult that did not yet have a credit file was difficult or impossible. Credit bureaus now allow a credit freeze in both of these situations, so also consider protecting your children with a credit freeze.
For those of you concerned about your Schwab accounts, we want you to know they take great care to protect against hackers and unauthorized account withdrawals. Schwab designates a section of their website to discuss some of the protections they use and ways investors can protect their accounts.
Schwab offers a "token," at no charge, for online users in an effort to prevent fraudulent account access. Each time you log in, you must also input the 6-digit code that your token produces. This is known as two-step verification. No one can log in without the code, which helps prevent account hacking. We encourage all Schwab online users to order a free token by calling Schwab at 1-800-435-4000.