Protect Your Credit & Identity If You Were Compromised

This article: Equifax Hack — How To Protect Your Credit And Identity If Your Data Was Compromised was posted last month on the Forbes.com website.

I write about building wealth and achieving financial freedom. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

As widely reported, the credit reporting bureau Equifax was recently hacked. If you have a credit report, you’re likely one of the 143 million Americans whose data may have been exposed, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

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A monitor displays Equifax Inc. signage on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The dollar fell to the weakest in more than two years, while stocks were mixed as natural disasters damped expectations for another U.S. rate increase this year. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

According to Equifax, the breach lasted more than a month, from mid-May until July of this year. The hackers gained access to people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and even some driver’s license numbers. They also got credit card numbers for 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal information for 182,000 consumers.

Unfortunately, at least some of your information was likely involved in this breach if you had a credit file with Equifax. I can tell you that my data was compromised. Let’s walk through what you need to do to first determine whether your information was compromised. Then we’ll look at what you can do about it.

 The first step is to visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if your information was exposed. The site includes a Potential Impact tab, where you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. (Be sure you’re on a secure computer and internet connection when you’re doing this!) This will tell you whether or not your information was compromised.

Enroll in free credit monitoring even if the site doesn’t say you were affected. You’ll be able to find out when you can enroll at the site linked above. You’ll have from that date until November 21, 2017 to enroll for a free year of credit monitoring.

Here I should add that one year of free credit monitoring is totally inadequate. The Equifax data theft can have life-long consequences for consumers. When a credit card number is stolen, you simply get a new card with a new number. You can’t, however, get a new date of birth or Social Security number.

For this reason, consumers should also enroll in several free credit score services. I use several of them and receive email alerts when changes appear on my credit report. You can find a list of free credit score services here.

Next, check your credit reports now so that you have a baseline. You can get your free annual credit reports from www.annualcrediterport.com. You can also get your reports along with your credit scores directly from FICO.

How to protect your friendship and your business

Good friends, great business partners

Survey small business entrepreneurs and you’re sure to discover relationships that soured when long-time friends became business partners. Fortunately, the story doesn’t always end on a tragic note. Here’s why:

  • Friends can talk openly. Because a foundation of trust has been established, friends have already learned to communicate candidly. When tough business decisions need to be made, they can discuss choices without wondering how criticisms will be construed.
  • Friends capitalize on each others’ strengths. One partner may love recordkeeping but tend to avoid dealing with the public. The other, a crackerjack salesman, may struggle with accounting minutia. As friends, they can capitalize on one another’s strengths to advance the company vision while minimizing internal squabbles.
  • Friends are committed. Friends care about each other, and will often go to lengths to work out differences because they’re committed to the friendship. They also typically have an understanding of each others’ top priorities, and are willing to help in reaching goals.

How to protect your friendship and your business

No significant business relationship should be undertaken lightly or blindly. With the help of skilled advisors, initial expectations about the company should be committed to writing. This includes laying out the details of operational roles, capital investments, working hours, exit strategies and other crucial aspects of the business. Even among friends, clearly written policies can prevent future misunderstandings.

Depending on your timeframe and industry, consider performing a beta test: a pilot project you can complete jointly before launching a business together. Along the way, ask these questions:

  • How do you handle disagreements?
  • Does one person always take the lead?
  • Can you easily switch leader and follower roles as circumstances dictate?

Test your relationship in a real-world setting. Observe how well you work together and make adjustments before the firm starts operations.

One more question worth pondering: is your potential business-partner friend in a stable position in life? If he or she is working through the aftermath of a divorce or climbing out of financial debt, consider postponing the launch of your business. If possible, start operations without major distractions.

If you’d like more advice about creating a successful business partnership structure, give us a call.

Today’s Luxury Car Trends


While automobiles are depreciating assets, they are necessities for many people. And with advances in technology, car owners have come to expect much more from their vehicles than simply transportation. Are you currently in the market for a new car? Are you familiar with the latest high-tech offerings? Consider your options and decide what’s most important to you.

High-Tech Safety Features
Integrated lane drift warnings, rear bumper cameras and adaptive cruise control (to maintain a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead of you) are some of the most desirable features in today’s cars. Advanced safety components like these might even qualify for a discount on your auto insurance, so be sure to talk to your provider.

Entertainment and Convenience
Manufacturers also develop new technology to make the driving experience more enjoyable and convenient. Road warriors, in particular, value a car with connectivity capabilities common in smartphones, such as Wi-Fi that can act as a mobile hot spot. Voice commands, which allow drivers to make a call, send a message and play music without the use of their phone, are also in demand.

Top-of-the-Line Rides
Of course, car tech isn’t just about safety and entertainment; it’s also about taking luxury to the next level. Many commuters are thrilled (and some are skeptical) about self-driving cars as they continue to pop up in cities across America. But it’s clear the idea is still in its infancy. For now, discriminating tech enthusiasts in the market for a new vehicle look for innovations that minimize one’s carbon footprint while offering elegant touches and an exciting driving experience.

Internet of Things: What It Means to You

Are you always looking for the latest gadget, or do you prefer to wait and see what stands the test of time? Either way, you’re likely connected to the internet of things whether you know it or not. What exactly does this trendy terminology mean? Here’s an overview to bring you up to speed.

Everyone’s Getting Into It
In a nutshell, the internet of things describes a technological ecosystem of devices — think cars, heart monitors and kitchen appliances — that send and receive data via the internet. This trend is spreading to diverse and surprising industries, including agriculture, retail and transportation, as hardware gets stronger and cheaper.

Less About the Device, More About the Data
Don’t expect to browse the web, stream your favorite TV show or use instant messaging services on these gadgets like you can on your smartphone or computer. Reminder alerts, seamless firmware updates and similar features will appeal to consumers, but the real draw is for manufacturers and other companies. They will benefit from the enormous amount of data that can provide analytics and insight into how people are using the devices, as well as personal data like health-related metrics.

Exciting Pros, Worrisome Cons
Security and privacy are the primary concerns surfacing with the internet of things and for good reason. The extensive data flowing from so many devices poses a logistical issue for IT infrastructure, not to mention the vulnerability to hackers and other cyberattacks.

Staying current with new tech can feel like a full-time hobby, but for those looking to constantly improve and optimize their lives, each year brings further advancements. Just remember to embrace the internet of things and other changes with your eyes wide open

What’s the ROI from fitness trackers?

 

Are you one of the millions who wears a fitness tracker? This technology has become so mainstream, even high-fashion and well-known designers are joining the craze and creating custom devices and stylish accessories to personalize them. Is this just another fad or do wearables actually deliver?

Not a Silver Bullet
A fitness tracker may help you lose weight but not necessarily more than if you didn’t wear it, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The research centered around wearables and weight loss showed a surprising trend: Those logging their meals and exercise on a website lost more weight than the individuals wearing tracking devices.

Fitness-tracking devices monitor and report data, but they can backfire without a human layer to meaningfully interpret that information. Plus, our brains can justify overindulgence or otherwise counterproductive behavior when we’re able to review our progress in real time.

Consider the Right Metrics
Corporations and businesses have been integrating wearable technology stats into wellness programs to improve the health and productivity of the workforce. But wearables track a great deal of data, which can be troubling for those who value their security and privacy. And it’s important to consider the information in a careful context given that fitness technology can still include incomplete or faulty data.

Remember, wearable tech trackers are still in their infancy, but professional athletes and those involved with innovating this technology see a lot of hope on the horizon. And consumers can reap some of the benefits as these companies present personal health metrics in a more personalized, human-centric and psychologically optimized fashion.