Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 questions to ask before buying life insurance at work. Also in the news: Why credit cards should get another chance after you pay off debt, how not to get spooked by your credit card bill this Halloween, and setting up your financial accounts like you’re going to be hacked.

Answer 5 Questions Before Buying Life Insurance at Work
What to ask yourself before signing up.

Why Credit Cards Should Get Another Chance After You Pay Off Debt
The rewards are worth it.

This Halloween, Don’t Get Spooked by Your Credit Card Bill
How to avoid sticker shock.

Set Up Your Financial Accounts Like You’re Going to Be Hacked
Beat hackers to the punch.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Travel survival secrets for introverts. Also in the news: How to live with your credit card’s low limit, the pros and cons of a rent-to-own home, and how to protect yourself after Facebook’s recent hack.

Shh! Introverts Share Travel Survival Secrets
Self-care in a noisy world.

How to Live With Your First Credit Card’s Low Limit
Earning increases over time.

Is a Rent-to-Own Home Right for You?
A look at the pros and cons.

How to Protect Yourself After Facebook’s Recent Hack
Locking down your private information.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How an engineer digs out of $100,000 in loans. Also in the news: What to do if Hurricane Florence hits your home and/or mortgage, 3 low-stress ways to invest for retirement, and the pros and cons of identity monitoring.

Debt Diary: How an Engineer Digs Out of $100,000 in Loans
Accounting for every single expense.

What to Do If Hurricane Florence Hits Your Home, Mortgage
Recovering from disaster.

3 Low-Stress Ways to Invest for Retirement
How to get started.

The Pros and Cons of Identity Monitoring Services
Are they worth the expense?

Q&A: Credit freeze may be inconvenient, but it’s effective

Dear Liz: Is freezing one’s credit reports the safest bet even though it’s inconvenient to get it temporarily unfrozen? Plus you have to pay a fee. At my son’s urging, I had my credit reports frozen since the Equifax incident but I find it very inconvenient whenever some financial firms need to look into my credit score.

Answer: Credit freezes remain the best way to prevent new account fraud, which is when criminals open up bogus credit accounts in your name.

It is somewhat inconvenient to have to remember to thaw the freezes when you apply for credit or other services, and you have to keep track of the personal identification numbers (PINs) that allow you to do so.

The good news is that the fees for instituting and thawing freezes will go away as of Sept. 21. The Dodd-Frank reform that Congress passed this spring included a clause requiring credit bureaus to waive those fees.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What is synthetic identity theft? Also in the news: The top 5 places to invest in for new grads, why more credit cards are helping you speed through airport security, and what you don’t know about foreign transaction fees.

What Is Synthetic Identity Theft?
Imaginary applicants with very real data.

New Grads: Here Are the Top 5 Places to Invest
Where to put your money.

Why More Credit Cards Help You Speed Through Airport Security
Skipping those long TSA lines.

What You Don’t Know About Foreign Transaction Fees
All of your overseas purchases could be racking up fees.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 ways to curb your online shopping enthusiasm. Also in the news: 13 last-ditch ways to avoid the poorhouse in retirement, why you should freeze your child’s credit, and 8 inspirational stories of people who overcame debt.

4 Ways to Curb Your Online Shopping Enthusiasm
Back away from the mouse.

13 Last-Ditch Ways to Avoid the Poorhouse in Retirement
There’s still time.

Why You Should Freeze Your Child’s Credit
Identity theft starts early.

8 inspirational stories of people who overcame debt
Learning from those who have been there.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: It’s tax scam season. Here’s when to call shenanigans. Also in the news: Starting with a budget when planning a wedding, how to find good, cheap stocks, and a major data breach at the Marine Forces Reserve.

Planning a Wedding? Start With the Budget
Setting reasonable expectations.

It’s Tax Scam Season. Here’s When to Call Shenanigans
Pay close attention.

4 Steps to Finding Good, Cheap Stocks
Tips for beginners.

Major data breach at Marine Forces Reserve impacts thousands
Social Security numbers, banks transfers and other personal info has been leaked.

Q&A: Ease identity theft fear by checking your credit report

Dear Liz: I am suddenly receiving junk mail addressed to my estranged brother at my house. I’ve been in this house for 15 years and have never before gotten mail addressed to him. Is it possible he applied for credit or something similar using my address? He has always had money issues.

Answer: It’s more typical for an identity thief to divert a victim’s mail to his own address than to cause junk mail to be sent the victim’s way. Still, it can’t hurt to check your credit reports via www.annualcreditreport.com to see if there are any accounts or activity you don’t recognize.

Q&A: Freezing Your Social Security Number

Dear Liz: Recently you answered a question about whether Social Security files could be “frozen” to help prevent fraudulent activity, and your response was no. I had just researched that question after the Equifax breach, and found out the Social Security Administration does have a way to block electronic access to your records now, so I had that set up for me. The administration advised that it can be done whether you have an online account or not (I don’t). There is additional information about this on the Social Security website: https://secure.ssa.gov/acu/IPS_INTR/blockaccess

Answer: When you block electronic access to your Social Security file, no one, including you, is able to see your records or change your information online or through the administration’s automated phone service. Blocking access could prevent someone from tampering with your record, but it also could prevent you from detecting misuse of your Social Security number if someone is using it for employment or tax fraud. Blocking access certainly won’t prevent other kinds of identity theft involving credit, medical care or criminal arrest. A better approach might be to set up an online Social Security account to prevent someone else from doing so fraudulently, and to monitor that account regularly.

There is another government service, myE-Verify, that enables you to “lock” your Social Security number. That may prevent someone from using your number to get a job, but only if an employer uses the service to determine applicants’ eligibility to work in the U.S. — and many employers don’t. Even if you succeed in preventing employment fraud, your number could still be used in other types of identity theft. Also, a Social Security lock expires after one year, so you’d need to renew it annually if you want to keep it in place.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to prevent your Social Security number from being misused. As long as those nine digits continue to be used as an all-purpose identifier, we will be vulnerable to all kinds of identity theft.

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.