A trifecta of hacks that made headlines last week show the important of keeping close tabs on your finances and doing a credit freeze.
T-Mobile customers who applied for service between Sept 1, 2013 and Sept. 16, 2015 have had their information stolen from the credit bureau Experian. All told, that amounts to 15 million people.
Criminals are believed to have not just your Social Security number, but also your driver’s license number, your address, your birthday and more.
Experian offers 2 years of free credit monitoring for free as a remedy, but that’s not enough. You need to do a credit freeze immediately.
Read more: How can I find my free credit score?
Here’s a hack that may be more scary that the Experian/T-Mobile thing. Nearly 5 million Scottrade customers have been hacked. What makes this particularly scary is that 90% of money in the U.S. is not in banks, but with stock traders like Scottrade.
This breach hits those who signed up for the service before February 2014. Criminals are believed to have names, addresses, e-mails and Social Security numbers.
The company is offering one year of free credit monitoring, but that’s not good enough either.
Read more: What is a backdoor Roth IRA?
Finally, Trump hotels in the U.S. and Canada were hit. Guests who booked between May 2014 and June 2015 may be affected. The cities hit include Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Toronto, New York and Miami.
Criminals are believed to have credit card numbers, expiration dates and the 3-digit code for Visa/MasterCard and the 4-digit code from American Express. That makes it easy for hackers to buy things online as if they were you.
So what should you do?
Do a credit freeze
A credit freeze allows you to seal your credit reports so no new applications for credit can be initiated in your name without your knowledge. When you do a credit freeze with the 3 main credit bureaus, you get a PIN that only you know.
This PIN can be used by you to temporarily ‘thaw’ your credit so that legitimate applications for credit and services can be processed. Without this PIN, a criminal would not be able to establish new credit in your name even if they are able to take over your identity.
Freezing your credit files has no impact whatsoever on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. You can continue to use them as you regularly would even when your credit is frozen.
Watch your statements carefully
If you’re among the affected, you need to go through your credit card and debit card statements this month and next month with a fine tooth comb. Identify any bogus charges the crooks may have pushed through and dispute them immediately with your bank or credit card company. You have 60 days with a credit card to file a dispute.