Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Making your investing resolutions a reality in 2018. Also in the news: Free activities to get your family out of the house, learn the truth about overdraft fees, and 3-month Equifax fraud alerts are expiring.

Make Your Investing Resolutions Reality in 2018
A whole new outlook for a new year.

Get Your Family Out of the House With These Free Activities
Fun doesn’t have to cost money.

Learn the Truth About Overdraft Fees — and Save Money
Expensive mistakes.

Warning: Your 3-month Equifax fraud alert is expiring
Should you freeze your credit?

Equifax hack: Freezing your credit isn’t enough

The Equifax hack exposed the names, addresses, birthdates and Social Security numbers of up to 145.5 million Americans. Drivers license information for 10.9 million people was also exposed, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Credit freezes won’t prevent criminals from taking over credit, bank, retirement and investment accounts, says security expert Avivah Litan with Gartner Research. Thieves also could use the purloined information to snatch your tax refund or mess with your Social Security benefits. Your email, phone, shopping and cloud-based storage accounts aren’t safe, either.

Read my Associated Press column for the steps you should take now.

Q&A: Free credit monitoring won’t prevent identity theft

Dear Liz: I thought I would share some information in light of the Equifax disaster.

Two of my credit card issuers provide free credit monitoring. Capital One scans my TransUnion file and Discover uses Experian. Both send email and text alerts about new activity and a monthly “reassurance” email when no such activity turns up in the previous 30 days.

Along with the credit freeze I placed at Equifax, I feel pretty secure at the moment. I’m sure that other credit card issuers have similar programs in place, and perhaps people should ask their financial institutions if such monitoring is available to them as account holders.

Answer: Free credit monitoring can certainly be helpful, but understand that it can’t prevent identity theft. At best, credit monitoring alerts you after the fact if someone has opened a new account in your name. Only credit freezes at all three bureaus can prevent those accounts from being opened in the first place.

Unfortunately, credit monitoring and freezes can’t help you with the most common type of identity theft, which is account takeover. That’s when someone makes bogus charges to your credit cards or steals money from your bank accounts.

Financial institutions use different types of software to detect fraud, but nothing replaces vigilance on the customer’s part. We should be reviewing transactions on our accounts at least monthly if not weekly. Online access to accounts can help you better monitor what’s going on.

You also can set up alerts that will email or text you if large or unusual transactions happen. (Just beware of a common scam where you’re texted an “alert” that your account has been frozen, along with a link that encourages you to divulge your login information.)

Even if you do everything in your power to avoid identity theft, you still can’t prevent scammers from using your information to file bogus tax returns, get medical care or commit criminal identity theft (by giving your name to the police when they’re arrested, for example). As long as Social Security numbers are used as an all-purpose identifier by businesses and government agencies alike, you can’t make yourself completely secure.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Mad at Equifax? Use that fuel to boost your cybersecurity. Also in the news: What to weight when considering a secured credit card, what not to do on your Facebook small business page, and 3 mistakes to avoid when picking a Medicare plan in open enrollment.

Mad at Equifax? Use That Fuel to Boost Your Cybersecurity
Batten down the hatches.

What to Weigh When Considering a Secured Credit Card
Things to watch out for.

What Not to Do on Your Facebook Small-Business Page
Setting the right tone.

Avoid these 3 mistakes when picking a Medicare plan during open enrollment
Choose wisely.

Equifax just changed the rest of your life

Adding freezes to your credit reports is an appropriate response to the massive Equifax database breach that exposed the private information of 143 million Americans.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking those freezes will keep you safe, however.

Credit freezes lock down your credit reports in a way that should prevent “new account fraud,” or bogus accounts being opened in your name. But there are so many other ways the bad guys can use the information they stole, which included Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and some driver’s license numbers. In my latest for the Associated Press, find out the other ways the Equifax breach will affect your life for years to come.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to foil 5 common bank fees from draining your funds. Also in the news: How to talk – not fight – about money with your spouse, the real cost of owning a pet, and how Equifax ignored warning about security vulnerabilities.

How to Foil 5 Common Bank Fees From Draining Your Funds
Don’t let them take your money.

How to Talk — Not Fight — About Money With Your Spouse
Peaceful talks over a tough subject.

How Much Does Owning a Pet Really Cost?
Affording Fido.

Equifax Was Warned About Vulnerability But Failed To Patch It
A nightmare that could have been prevented.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Protecting your credit even as Equifax vows free lifelong credit lock. Also in the news: Sorting out an athlete’s tax bill, navigating car buying in a post-hurricane market, and the mobile game that helps you save money.

Protect Your Credit Even as Equifax Vows Free Lifelong Lock
Necessary steps.

Think Playing Quarterback Is Tough? Try Sorting Out an Athlete’s Tax Bill
Yikes.

Navigating Car Buying in a Post-Hurricane Market
Be careful you don’t get soaked.

One Part Personal Finance, One Part Mobile Gaming: Meet Long Game
Have fun while saving money.

Q&A: How to protect your financial data in the wake of the Equifax breach

Dear Liz: Do I have the right to notify the credit bureaus that I do not want any of my financial information stored in their files? They don’t seem to be that secure. I rarely borrow money and the three financial institutions I deal with have all the data they need to lend me money if I need some. I do finance a car on occasion, because if they want to lend me money at less than 1%, why not?

Answer: The short answer is no, you have no right to stop credit bureaus from collecting information about you. You also can’t prevent them from selling that information or keeping it in inadequately secured databases.

One thing you can do is to freeze your credit reports at all three bureaus to prevent criminals from using purloined information to open credit accounts in your name. But that will cost you.

The only bureau currently waiving the typical $3 to $10 fee for freezing credit reports is Equifax, the credit bureau whose cybersecurity incident exposed Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other sensitive identifying information for 143 million Americans. The other bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, are still charging those fees.

You’ll have to pay an additional $2 to $10 each time you want to lift those freezes, which you’ll probably need to do if you apply for new insurance, apartments, cellphone service, utilities and, of course, credit. Financial institutions may indeed have plenty of information about you, but probably wouldn’t lend you any money without access to your credit reports or scores. Freezes also are a bit of a hassle because you need to keep track of a personal identification number, or PIN, to lift the freeze.

Just in case you weren’t irritated enough by this state of affairs, understand that freezes won’t stop other types of identity theft, such as someone getting medical care in your name or giving the police your information when they’re arrested. Still, instituting freezes is probably the best response to the most devastating breach yet.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Credit report with score on a desk

Today’s top story: How ‘Pay for Delete’ might help your credit – if you’re lucky. Also in the news: 19 less-obvious wedding costs to bake into your budget, why financial advice is still important regardless of your income, and how to make sure you’re not going to an Equifax phishing site.

‘Pay for Delete’ Might Help Your Credit — If You’re Lucky
Negotiating with a creditor.

19 Less-Obvious Wedding Costs to Bake Into Your Budget
Budgeting the entire package.

Not Made of Money? Financial Advice Is Still for You
You don’t need to be to rich.

Make Sure You’re Not Going to an Equifax Phishing Site
Don’t make matters worse.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Equifax messed up – who pays? You do. Also in the news: 5 foolproof ways to build wealth without a lottery ticket, 3 ways to score after iPhone 8 and iPhone X release, and your ‘money personality’ is first step to financial freedom.

Equifax Messed Up — Who Pays? You Do

5 Foolproof Ways to Build Wealth — No Lotto Ticket Needed

3 Ways to Score After iPhone 8, iPhone X Release

Your ‘money personality’ is first step to financial health