Steps to help protect your money from hackers

After the Equifax breach, which exposed the private data of nearly half of American adults, your finances could be vulnerable for years. While the security freeze on your credit files is considered maximum protection, there are other ways to build a wall around your money.

To place a freeze, you contact each of the credit bureaus. Once in place, potential creditors can’t access your credit report unless you lift the freeze and it costs about $10 for a freeze.

“I would also encourage everyone to use multifactor authentication which is going to give you an extra layer of security beyond the typical user ID and password that they would use to log into accounts,” said Mikel Van Cleve, with USAA.

Multilayers can include your password plus a code that is texted to your phone or your password plus some sort of biometrics, such as your fingerprint. You can set up and activate multilayers on most mobile banking sites as well as credit card accounts.

It’s also important to manage your smartphone and email accounts. Those second-factor text message codes that are sent to your phone and your mobile banking and finance-related apps are located on your phone, too.

You can make hacking into your phone and email more difficult by activating multifactor authentication on your email account. When you try to access your email from a device that you don’t typically use, you will get a text message with a code to complete the login.

Authenticator apps such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator, are also included.

Next, Consumer Reports money adviser Margot Gilman says you should also secure your mutual funds.

Investment firms are not required to restore assets stolen by hackers, but two of the biggest firms, Fidelity and Vanguard, have reimbursement policies, in cases of online hacking.

“If your company doesn’t explicitly say it reimburses stolen funds, consider moving your money elsewhere,” said Gilman.

And don’t forget the simple step of placing a fraud alert on your credit files.

You need only contact one of the big three credit bureaus and that bureau will contact the others. A fraud alert is free and typically lasts 90 days. It provides a first-step warning to potential lenders not to open accounts in your name without taking extra steps to verify it’s actually you applying for credit.


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