Equifax Data Breach: How To Find Out If Your Personal Information Was Stolen

Equifax, one of the three largest US consumer credit reporting agencies, announced this week that they were victims of a cyber-security data breach that will potentially affect 143 million U.S. consumers. The cyber hackers got access to names, Social Security numbers, birth dates,  addresses, and driver’s license numbers to nearly half of the U.S. population, with potential breaches also affecting consumers in Canada and the United Kingdom. Although the official statement from Equifax was released this week, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith maintains, “We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations.  We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.” Just because you are not a consumer of Equifax doesn’t mean that this breach won’t directly affect you. According to CNN, Equifax gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders who report on the credit activity of individuals to credit reporting agencies, as well as by purchasing public records.

How Can You Find Out If You Were Affected By the Equifax Data Breach?

Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted. Additionally, Equifax has established a dedicated website, http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially affected. As a consolation, Equifax is offering one year of credit file monitoring and identity theft protection, copies of Equifax credit reports, the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, identity theft insurance, and internet scanning for Social Security numbers for all U.S. consumers.

Equifax Data Breach: How Can You Find Out If You Were Affected By the Equifax Data Breach?

What You Should Do In the Event of Identity Theft

    1. Review your financial accounts daily
    2. Check your credit history at least twice a year
    3. Immediately report any errors or disputes (click here to see how to get the process started)
    4. Destroy all inactive and expired credit cards
    5. Contact your bank and/or credit card company to set up fraud alerts
    6. Change your passwords
    7. File a formal report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

{Financial Cents} BINGO Money Challenge Hits MAJOR Milestone

Coins of Knowledge

Hello Lovelies!  I have some exciting news to share with you this morning.  Yesterday I crossed off $14.00 – doesn’t sound too exciting yet, but wait for it….. – on the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge.  That $14.00 put me at the $1,000.00 mark for this money challenge!  –INSERT HAPPY DANCE!!!!

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On the same day that I hit the $1,000.00 mark in savings, I also hit the under $1,000.00 mark in my credit card balance!!!  While I am proud of the financial gains made in the first six months of this challenge, I am even more excited about the about the savings habits I have created for myself.  I believe that creating a healthy savings routine is the first step on my journey to DEBT FREE living.  I was chatting with a girlfriend of mine who made the observation that I have only been focusing on saving and not making increasing my sources of income a priority.  In a lot of ways she was correct.  I have placed a serious focus this year on saving because in the past, I would start the year strong with savings goals and plans for myself only to find some of them abandoned by mid-year.  That being said, splitting my focus between increasing streams of income and saving would have only created more problems at that point in my journey when I wasn’t steadfast in making saving a priority.  The phrase, “More Money, More Problems”, exists for a reason.  Without a healthy savings routine and more income coming in, I could have easily  created more debt and worsen bad spending habits.  I have spent the first six months of this year really focusing on correcting past bad behaviors and replacing them with healthy habits.  Now that I have solid saving habits, I can start also focusing on increasing income and using that increase to move on the next snowball in my overall financial plan- student loans debt. I attribute my success to personal will, saying no to social (sometimes), and having accountability partners, like readers of She Makes Cents to help keep me motivated.  I would love to hear how you are doing with this challenge… the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

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52 Week Bingo Money Challenge Milestone

If I told you the last five days have been a whirlwind, I’m not sure you could even comprehend what I mean. In the past five days I served as a juror on a trial for two days, driven from Atlanta to Jackson, Mississippi, attended a funeral, got back on the road for the six-hour car trip home, just in time to make it to a Sunday wedding for my sorority sister. That being said, I missed last week’s check in and the March recap of the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge. 

Check out a few pictures from the wedding!

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IMG_20160403_190433For the first week of April, I decided to cross off $23.00 + a bonus of $75.00. My first April contribution, including the bonus, is only $4.00 less than my entire last month’s savings. I’d say I am off to a good start for month. Overall, I have a saved a total of $556.00 that I have been using to make extra payments toward my credit card debt. Every extra payment is helping me shave off the repayment term, shave of compounding interest fees, and is improving my credit score because my debt to credit ratio is increasing. I would LOVE to have my credit card balance under the $500.00 mark by the end of May. With a balance of $2400.00+, only time and discipline will tell. Until then, I will keep crossing off numbers on my BINGO money sheet.

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{Every Woman Should Have} The Protection of a Slush Fund

This is not a typical savings post, but a post that might just save you.  I learned a very adult lesson when I was just a teenager watching a friend’s mother pick up the pieces after a messy divorce.  To my knowledge, it was he who messed up…..so how in the world did she have to downgrade the lifestyle that they built together and he upgraded?   The simple answer, he probably had the better lawyer.  They shared an account but she didn’t  have an account all by herself.  At 15 years old, I learned that life happens and not everyone gets the happily ever after they were expecting.  More importantly, I learned that every woman should have a  her own money.  I vowed that would NEVER be me.  That was the year I started saving my own money.

Money Quotes

The Protection of a Slush Fund

Creating a Slush Fund for yourself isn’t a selfish act nor does it have to be a sneaky one.  In this post, Fortune Magazine author,  Jean Chatzky, cites a study conducted by Princeton Research Associates for CreditCards.com.  According to the study, “7.2 million Americans (4.4 million men and 2.8 million women to be precise) have a bank account or credit card that their spouse or live-in partner doesn’t know about”.  That kind of omission in a relationship is not my personal cup of tea.  I believe in the “yours-mines-ours” approach where the lines are clear and the division of funds works for both  parties.   This “Yours-Mines-Ours” strategy is me taking an active role in my personal finances and joint finances.  Gone are the days where women are expected to blindly allow their spouses to run their financial house without know how the money is flowing in and out.

 Regardless of your relationship status, YOU have a  responsibility of  building your financial house on a stronger foundation.  Be proud of that.  Be clear about your expectations. Be smart about your money.  Every woman should have a protective slush fund because no one can protect you like you.  

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You’re married, so should you have your own slush fund?