Family Financial Education

Credit Freeze Information in the Wake of the Equifax Hack

Source:  Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management, Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Credit experts recommend that consumers freeze their credit to reduce their risk of becoming an identity theft victim. This has to be done individually with each of the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), plus some experts also recommend doing a freeze with a lesser-known credit reporting agency called Innovis to “cover all the bases.” That means making 4 separate freeze requests per person or 8 requests for a couple.

By freezing your credit, you prevent potential creditors from accessing your credit file, thereby preventing identity thieves from opening accounts in your name. However, credit freezes will not deter non-credit related frauds such as tax refund identity theft and health insurance fraud. For that, consumers are simply told to “be vigilant.”

Credit freeze requests can be made online, by phone, or by certified U.S. mail. Expect to devote some time to this task. Below is contact information for each credit reporting agency for each method of contact to request a credit freeze:

Online:

Telephone

  • Equifax: 800-685-1111
  • Experian: 888-397-3742
  • TransUnion: 888-909-8872
  • Innovis: 800-540-2505

U.S. Mail

  • Equifax: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
  • Experian: Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
  • TransUnion: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
  • Innovis: Innovis Customer Assistance, P.O. Box 26, Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026

The costs of security freezes vary from state to state. Fees may or may not be charged to add a credit freeze, temporarily lift (thaw) a credit freeze (e.g., when you need to apply for a loan), and remove a credit freeze. Different fees for credit freezes may also apply depending on whether someone is or is not a victim of identity theft.

For mailed security freeze requests, include the following information in a cover letter format:

  • Full name (with middle initial) and former name, if applicable
  • Current address and former addresses within the last five years
  • Social Security number
  • Full date of birth (month, day, year)
  • Signature
  • Photocopies of two forms of identification such as a government-issued identity card and proof of residence such as phone bill or utility company bill.

If looking for local information about financial topics for yourself or for an organization, contact MU Extension in Camden County at 573 346-2644 and ask for Dr. Rebecca J. Travnichek or email me at TravnichekR@missouri.edu. Services for one-on-one financial counseling are also available.
 

My Social Security simplifies your life

For more than 80 years, Social Security has helped secure today and tomorrow with information, tools and resources to meet our customers’ changing needs and lifestyles. So many people buzz through extremely busy and complicated schedules these days. A smartphone in one hand, a computer in front of then, and a digital task list that never seems to end.

Most organized people agree that planning ahead is a great way to simplify your life. Whether you’re planning tomorrow’s schedule, next summer’s vacation, or your retirement. We have a suggestion that can help you simplify your life when it comes to Social Security. If you haven’t already (you should add it to your task list), open your own personal my Social Security account. What’s my Social Security? It’s a free, secure, online account that allows you immediate access to your personal Social Security information. During your working years, you can use my Social Security to view your Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see estimates of the future retirement, disability and survivor benefits you and your family may receive based on your earnings. If you already receive Social Security benefits or have Medicare, you can use my Social Security to check your benefit information, change your address and phone number, change your electronic payment methods, obtain a benefit verification letter, get a replacement Medicare card, or get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for the tax season. Check it out and sign up for my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

After checking your online Social Security Statement, be sure to visit our Retirement Estimator. Like my Social Security, you can use it as many times as you’d like. The Retirement Estimator lets you compute potential future Social Security benefits by changing variables, such as retirement dates and future earnings. You may discover that you’d rather wait another year or two before you retire to earn a higher benefit. To get instant, personalized estimates of your future benefits just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

There are many tools at www.socialsecurity.gov that are simple and convenient to use.

Help secure your today and tomorrow. Open a my Social Security account today by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and simplify your life. 

Goal Setting Helps Transform Your Hopes, Wants, and Dreams Into Reality

Setting goals helps you to:

  • Work toward making your future better
  • Prioritize how you spend your money so that it goes toward things that really matter
  • Measure and track your progress toward getting the things you want out of life
  • Take pride in bettering your life and the lives of your children

Setting SMART Goals

SMART goals have five important characteristics. They are specific, measurable, able to be reached, relevant, and time bound. When setting a new goal, think about the following:

Specific

Ask yourself: Who will achieve or benefit from the goal? What is specifically being achieved? Why is the goal important? Is this goal related to covering the expenses associated with an expected life event?

A specific goal has a much greater chance of being met than a general, because it provides something defined to reach for.

Measurable

Ask yourself: How much? How many? How will I know when it is done?

You should be able to track your progress toward meeting the goal.

Able to be Reached

Ask yourself: Is this goal something that I can actually reach? You might want to get out of high credit card debt tomorrow or become a millionaire in a year, but for most of us, those are totally impossible goals.

That doesn’t mean that your goals should be easy. Your goal may be a stretch for you, but it should not be extreme or impossible.

Relevant

Ask yourself: Is this something that I really want? Is now the right time to do this?

Set goals that matter to you and are a priority in your life.

Time bound

 

Ask yourself: By what date must this goal be reached?

Goals should have a clearly defined time frame, including a target or deadline date. This helps ensure they are measurable (Did I achieve the goal by the target date?) and that actions are planned to reach the goal by the date.

Here are some hopes, wants, or dreams you might have for your family and how they could be translated into strong goals.

Hopes, wants, or dreams

Strong goals

I’d like to be able to pay all of my bills each month.

Short-term goal: I will review my budget to see if there are ways to cut my spending by the end of the month.

Short-term goal: I will meet with the Community Action Program to see if I qualify for job training and other benefits by the end of the month.

I really want to save some money in case something happens in the future and I lose my job.

I will save $50 over the next six months to start an emergency fund.

 

 I want to get out of credit card debt.

I will pay down $1,000 of my debt over the next 18 months.

I’d like a safe, stable place to raise my children.

Short-term goal: I will save $800 for the required first month rent in the next six months so that I can move into a new apartment by June.

Long-term goal: I will save $3,000 for a down payment, apply for additional down payment help, and purchase a home in four years.

I’d like to buy a new television.

I will save $400 and purchase a new television in six months.

I’d like to help my child go to college.

Short-term goal:I will read to my child every night to show that school and learning are important.

Long-term goal: I will save $5000 in a fund to help pay my child’s tuition in ten years.