Equifax Breach – What to do now

Informed consumers do everything in their power to protect their identity.  Unfortunately, sometimes events occur that are outside our control.  Today’s news of a major cybersecurity breach at Equifax is a reminder, affecting nearly half of American consumers.

Equifax has provided a way for consumers to find out if they were affected, and to take steps to protect themselves.  They’ve posted a page where you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security Number to find out if you were affected.  If there’s a chance that your information was compromised, you’ll be offered an opportunity to enroll (free) in an identity theft protection and credit monitoring service.

NOTE: Clicking on “Enroll” isn’t enough; you’ll need to follow up with more steps.  You will be given a date (mine was next Tuesday) when your enrollment is available.  At that time, you’ll need to go back to the website and follow instructions to enroll.  To enroll you’ll need to provide answers to several questions, and then respond to an email to finally activate your account.

Nobody likes to deal with issues like this, but if you are affected, be sure you take the steps required to protect yourself!

Phone Option:  Equifax has established a dedicated call center. The call center is available at 866-447-7559, every day (including weekends) from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.  Note that the call center is currently experiencing high volume leading to busy signals for many callers.

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Shopping Security: Don’t be a Victim

Woman with Shopping BagsThe arrival of the holiday shopping season creates opportunities for thieves.  Parking lots are where most mall-related crimes occur. It’s up to us to reduce that threat. 

The typical thief will look for an easy target; if you make it difficult for them to take advantage of you, they’ll likely turn aside.   Here are some precautions that will help protect you during the holidays and all year round:

  1. Park in a busy and well-lit area.  Avoid dark remote corners of parking lots.
  2. Lock and stow. Lock your car doors and tuck prior purchases out of sight – in the trunk.  Stash away other valuables, as well – GPS unit, laptops and tablets, e-readers, and more.
  3. Stay focused.  Avoid checking messages or otherwise being distracted by your phone or anything else. Instead, be alert to everything going on around you.
  4. Assume you’re watched.  If you need to stash some purchases in your car partway through a shopping trip, then act as though you’re leaving entirely.  Get into your car, start it up, and move it to another parking spot out of sight of anyone who might have been watching you arrive at your car.
  5. Don’t dally. Have your car key in hand and walk like you know where you’re going (even if you can’t remember exactly where you parked).
  6. Beware and react.  If you are approached or chased by a stranger, yell loud to get attention, and consider going back to alert store security.

Nothing can guarantee the safety of our purchases (or ourselves), but appropriate precautions can certainly reduce the risk.  Shop safe!  ~Barb

Source: Consumer Reports Magazine, December 2013

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Income vs Assets – Are You in Poverty?

One in four Iowa residents is living on the edge of financial disaster with almost no savings to fall back on in the event of a job loss, health crisis or other income-depleting emergency, according to a report released this week. 

Why might this matter to you?  The report points out that some people (12% of Iowans) are poor when it comes to income.  But twice as many people are poor when it comes to assets. 

Are you one of those who have enough income, but are not building enough savings?  If you are, then I suggest you take a close look at your habits.  Chances are that you could find some ways to save some money; even $20/month adds up over time, and many of us could save $50-$100 a month more if we really tried.

The Assets & Opportunity scorecard, released by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) reminds us how risky it is to be without savings. 

You wouldn’t risk your income security by skipping work all the time, would you?  Then why do you risk your asset security by not building savings?  Tell me what you think.  ~Barb

Find the full report at http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard/

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Disability Insurance is often overlooked

Disability insurance is underused.  There are people who would never be without life insurance (“what would my family do if I was gone?”) but who have not purchased disability insurance.  They don’t realize that the same question applies:  What would your family do without your income?

For young adults, the risk that they will experience some disability before they retire is much greater than the risk that they will die before retiring.  What’s more, the financial cost of a wage-earner’s disability can be even greater than death — not only is the family’s income reduced, but they must also pay for medical care for the disabled individual.  Disability insurance is more important than many people realize.

At one time I had a job which didn’t offer disability insurance, but I didn’t want to neglect that aspect of financial security. I did some looking around and found I could purchase it through an association to which I belonged.

– Barb 

(Edited: 2/2/2020)

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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