A person’s credit score can be a make-or-break factor for any number of major financial transactions, such as receiving a mortgage on a new home. And yet, according to recent reports, millions of Americans are not taking the steps necessary to keep a watchful eye on their credit.
That new comes to us from CNN Money, which recently reported that “half of adults in the U.S. haven’t checked their credit report or score in the last six months,” and that “18% of adults have never checked their credit score or report.”
That would be staggering information under normal circumstances – but it’s particularly remarkable when you consider that one of the country’s three major credit bureaus, Equifax, saw a colossal data breach just a short while ago. This breach exposed sensitive personal information for as many as 145 million Americans.
As Matt Schulz, a senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, put it for CNN: “The bad guys basically got everything they would need to pretend to be you through this breach… They got the keys to the kingdom.”
That means that cyber thieves and other bad actors could use your name and information to take out loans, open credit cards, or carry out other forms of identity theft, which could damage your own credit and impair your ability to stay financially secure.
One way that consumers can take action to prevent identity theft is to keep a close eye on their credit score and reports from the major credit reporting agencies. Fortunately, there are mechanisms available to do just that.
For instance, as CNN reports (emphasis ours):
“… you can request your credit report from each credit bureau once a year for free. Experts generally recommend staggering those reports every four months to keep a pulse on your financial health. When reviewing your report, look for any accounts or late payments you don’t recognize.”
Many consumer protection experts and advocates have also encouraged consumers to put a freeze on their credit, which “helps prevent new accounts being opened in your name,” CNN explains. As a response to their major breach, Equifax has actually waived the fee for consumers who wish to freeze their Equifax credit report, through June 30, according to CNN.
Above all, this story is important to make sure that regularly checking your credit report and score for accuracy is a part of your regular routine, since “the earlier you catch fraudulent activity the better.” As Chi Chi Wu, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, put it to CNN:
“Checking for signs of identity theft is basically like looking for the disease after the symptoms… Even if you don’t have to actually pay for any of the fraudulent charges, the cost of time, grief and possible time away from work adds up.”
For more insights from this study – including a surprising look at which generation is most active about checking credit reports – it’s well worth taking a look at the full CNN Money story, available here. For a more comprehensive look at the effect of the Equifax breach on consumers, the FTC also has a helpful collection of resources, which you may find here.
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.