The Equifax Data Breach: What Do I Do Now?

The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do

 Data Breach

If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.

Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.

There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

  • Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
  • Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
  • You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.

Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.

Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.

Watch: What to Do After a Data Breach

How to protect your finances before the New Year; ticket #3

Welcome to the Financial Freedom Press!  This newsletter is a publication of The Restoration Station the financial literacy division of  MT Austin and Associates,your accounting solution! The mission of  The Restoration Station is to help place you on the right track to financial freedom.  We offer FREE tools (tickets) and resources to support you on your journey to financial freedom and wealth!


TICKET #3: Review your health insurance bills

surprised-women-reading-n-0012Insurance companies and doctor’s offices are not immune to making human mistakes yet most people don’t bother to look at the statements from their insurer before they pay the balance due or quickly file away the invoice when no payment is due.

Why is it important to check your health insurance bills? Your insurance bill could be an early detector of identity theft. Hospitals and doctor’s offices must request a copy of your identification and insurance card before they provide services. If you see a charge on your health insurance bill for an item, doctor, facility or date that you do not recognize it could be possible that someone used your identification. If you notice something wrong, contact the doctor or health facility’s billing department for a detailed description of the item. If you are certain that it was not your claim, contact your health insurance company  immediately to request an investigation into the charge and correct the error.

If the health office confirms the person provided accurate identification and you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, visit ftc.gov/idtheft to file a claim.

 

I hope you have found this “tool” useful. Please comment below if you have questions or feedback. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog, Financial Freedom Press to receive the fourth ticket and visit The Restoration Station on Facebook for FREE resources and weekly live broadcasts with valuable tickets and information for the individual household and entrepreneur.

MT Austin and Associates , sponsor of  The Restoration Station provides accounting, financial reporting and income tax services to corporations, non profits and individuals. If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to send a message to us from the contact page of our website. We appreciate the opportunity to be of service!

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How to protect your finances before the new year ; TICKET #1

Welcome to the Financial Freedom Press!  This newsletter is a publication of The Restoration Station the financial literacy division of  MT Austin and Associates,your accounting solution! The mission of  The Restoration Station is to help place you on the right track to financial freedom.  We offer FREE tools (tickets) and resources to support you on your journey to financial freedom and wealth!


TICKET #1Check your credit report! 

 

credit-reportDecember is a busy season for thieves! There is a lot of shopping activity in the stores, credit card activity and online shopping which leaves your financial information and personal information subject to cyber and banking fraud.

The end of the year is the perfect time to check your credit report for any suspicious activity. Aside from the holiday shopping, many are considering a new home, car or possibly even a new job in the new year and all of these transitions are easier with healthy credit.

Good news– it’s free. The law entitles you to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

Why is it important to check your credit report? It has important information about your financial accounts, how you pay your bills, and if you filed for bankruptcy. You want to make sure everything is accurate, especially before you buy a house or a car or apply for a job. If you notice something wrong, contact the credit reporting company and business providing the information to correct the error.

Checking your report can help you guard against identity theft. Visit ftc.gov/idtheft if you spot accounts that aren’t yours.

How do you order your free credit report? Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

Keep in mind– you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. So the next time someone asks how’s your credit, you’ll have the answer. To order your free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

I hope you have found this “tool” useful. Please comment below if you have questions or feedback. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog, Financial Freedom Press to receive the next three tips and visit The Restoration Station on Facebook for FREE resources and weekly live broadcasts with valuable tickets and information for the individual household and entrepreneur.

MT Austin and Associates , sponsor of  The Restoration Station provides accounting, financial reporting and income tax services to corporations, non profits and individuals. If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to send a message to us from the contact page of our website. We appreciate the opportunity to be of service!

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Wishing You Abundance!

On behalf of M.T. Austin and Associates, we would like to wish you a joyful holiday season and a new year full of abundance! 

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The Restoration Station will be closed effective Tuesday, December 20th for regular maintenance and will re-open on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. We will be working hard to bring you valuable webinars and live broadcasts that will help place you on the right track to financial freedom. We will offer online broadcasts and classes on three main tracks:

  • Track One: Household Finance and Recovery
  • Track Two: Self-Employed/Entrepreneur
  • Track Three: You can have it all: the self employed single parent

If you would like to learn about a specific financial or accounting or tax issue, please submit your request below. We look forward to serving you at the “Station” in the new year. Don’t stand in line, get on board!

 

Tool #4: 7 Money Saving Tools you need before you begin holiday shopping!

Welcome to the Financial Freedom Press!  This newsletter is a publication of The Restoration Station the financial literacy division of  MT Austin and Associates,your accounting solution!


Last week we broadcast live from The Restoration Station and recorded a video of the 7 Money Saving Tools you need BEFORE you go out holiday shopping, along with a Bonus video with tip on how to give a gift that is also tax-deductible. For those who were unable to come into the station, there’s still time to get your ticket! The mission of The Restoration Station is to help place you on the right track to financial freedom. I touched on the 7 tools in the video, and will discuss them in more detail on our blog. Please visit our Restoration Station Facebook Page to “like” and get notifications of our live broadcasts every Thursday at 11:30am, EST. We offer FREE tools to support you on your journey to financial freedom and wealth!

TOOL #4Set up a separate email used only to sign up for offers

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This Tool #4 is my secret sauce! I have utilized this for the past few years and it helps me not only during the holiday season but throughout the year.  Retail and service companies will always offer you a discount, coupon code or free gift or download in order to get your email address for marketing purposes. Some of the offers are extremely enticing and you want the discount, but you don’t want to have spam filling up your email inbox. Set up a separate email account solely for the use of signing up for these offers. It can be gmail, outlook or the email associated with your local cable provider, but set up an email address such as “couponemail@xxx.com”, write down the password and use it ONLY for signing up for online offers. If you utilize this tool now, by the end of the year you will have a number of offers in your email inbox from stores, restaurants and service providers that you frequent most often. It’s a great way to collect coupons in one place without cluttering up your personal or professional email account.

During holiday season (or any time that you go shopping), do a search on your inbox for that particular store or restaurant name and the result will be the last few offers from that particular retailer. Most email offers are easily retrieved and able to be opened on your smart phone and scanned right in the store by the cashier. It’s a great tool to use and because most retailers have an expiration date on their coupons you can clear out this email account regularly, only keeping email for the past thirty to sixty days.

I hope you have found this “tool” useful. Please comment below if you have questions or feedback. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog, Financial Freedom Press to receive the next three tools and visit The Restoration Station on Facebook for FREE resources and weekly live broadcasts with valuable tools and information for the individual household and entrepreneur.

MT Austin and Associates , sponsor of  The Restoration Station provides accounting, financial reporting and income tax services to corporations, non profits and individuals. If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to send a message to us from the contact page of our website. We appreciate the opportunity to be of service!

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Tool #3: 7 Money Saving Tools you need before you go holiday shopping!

Welcome to the Financial Freedom Press!  This newsletter is a publication of The Restoration Station the financial lieracy division of  MT Austin and Associates,your accounting solution!


This past Thursday we broadcast live from The Restoration Station and recorded a video of the 7 Money Saving Tools you need BEFORE you go out holiday shopping, along with a Bonus video with tip on how to give a gift that is also tax-deductible. For those who were unable to come into the station, there’s still time to get your ticket! The Restoration Station is here to help place you on the right track to financial freedom. I touched on the 7 tools in the video, and will discuss them in more detail here each day of the week. Please visit our Restoration Station Facebook Page to “like” and get notifications of our live broadcasts every Thursday at 11:30am, EST. We offer FREE tools to support you on your journey to financial freedom and wealth!

TOOL #3: Have a savers mindset and never pay full price

 

 

The commercialism and high volume of marketing during the holiday season can cause impulse shopping. All of the retailers are offering FREE or extremely low priced items to entice you to come into their store. The sales are very inviting and intend to get you into the store in the height of holiday shopping season to buy the items that are not on sale. Your greatest tool during these impulse shopping days is your laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Because of marketing demographics or email filters, you may not receive all of the coupons or discounts for the retailers that you are planning to visit. Make a habit of searching for coupons online before you venture out shopping. If you have a smart phone, you can search as soon as you park your car, or inside the store if it has WiFi! I like to use sites such as RetailMeNot or Groupon to search for coupons that can be used in the store and/or online. You can also do a Google search for “Name of Retail Company coupon codes for 2016″. I personally do 95% of my shopping online all year long because I do not like the long lines and crowds in retail stores and parking lots. You will find that retailers will offer different coupons depending on how you shop.

Read the small print. Some stores will not honor coupons for large priced or certain brand name items, but some stores will accept competitors coupons or more than one coupon for a single purchase. Shop local if you can, you can get some of the best deals with small business owners, but if you shop at one of the large retail stores, do not pay full price!

I hope you have found this “tool” useful. Please comment below if you have questions or feedback. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog, Financial Freedom Press to receive the next four tools and visit The Restoration Station on Facebook for FREE resources and weekly live broadcasts with valuable tools and information for the individual household and entrepreneur.

MT Austin and Associates , sponsor of  The Restoration Station provides accounting, financial reporting and income tax services to corporations, non profits and individuals. If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to send a message to us from the contact page of our website. We appreciate the opportunity to be of service!

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Tool #2: 7 Money Saving Tools you need before you go holiday shopping!

Welcome to the first Issue of Financial Freedom Press, the news source published by The Restoration Station and sponsored by MT Austin and Associates, your accounting solution!

This past Thursday we broadcast live from The Restoration Station and recorded a video of the 7 Money Saving Tools you need BEFORE you go out holiday shopping, along with a Bonus video with tip on how to give a gift that is also tax-deductible. For those who were unable to come into the station, there’s still time to get your ticket! The Restoration Station is here to help place you on the right track to financial freedom. I touched on the 7 tools in the video, and will discuss them in more detail here each day of the week. Please visit our Restoration Station Facebook Page to “like” and get notifications of our live broadcasts every Thursday at 11:30am, EST. We offer FREE tools to support you on your journey to financial freedom and wealth!

TOOL #2Open a savings (or club) account dedicated to holiday spending

The best feeling in the world is to realize that it’s the holiday season, that you have to start shopping for friends and family, school teachers and sitters and know that you have money in your savings account earmarked solely for this season of giving!

If you don’t already have a separate holiday shoppers club account (offered at most Credit Unions), consider opening a savings account at a local bank. I would suggest you open an account that is not at your normal bank and does not come attached with a debit card. You will be less tempted to dip into the savings account if the bank and funds are not easily accessible. There are also a number of online banks such as Capital One that do not have brick and mortar locations with tellers but offer you the ability to set a yearly goal for your savings and transfer funds from your personal checking account into your online savings account.

A large number of banks offer incentives for new accounts during the holiday season to entice those making savings resolutions to open up an account. Take advantage of some of the offers and invitations; banks will often offer a gift or deposit additional funds into your savings account after it’s opened. Keep in mind however all monetary gifts from the bank are taxable so don’t be surprised if you receive a 1099 at the end of next year. The good news is that the Federal Reserve expects interest rates to rise next year which means your money will earn a bit more than it did last year –  more incentive to save!

So take a look around, review the circulars that your local banks have mailed to you or search online for the best savings account interest rates for 2016.

I hope you have found this “tool” useful. Please comment below if you have questions or feedback. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog, Financial Freedom Press to receive the next five tools and visit The Restoration Station on Facebook for FREE resources and weekly live broadcasts with valuable tools and information for the individual household and entrepreneur.

MT Austin and Associates , sponsor of  The Restoration Station provides accounting, financial reporting and income tax services to corporations, non profits and individuals. If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to send a message to us from the contact page of our website. We appreciate the opportunity to be of service!

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7 Money Saving Tools you need before you go holiday shopping! Tool #1

Welcome to the first Issue of Financial Freedom Press, the news source published by The Restoration Station and sponsored by MT Austin and Associates, your accounting solution!

This past Thursday we broadcast live from The Restoration Station and recorded a video of the 7 Money Saving Tools you need BEFORE you go out holiday shopping, along with a Bonus video with tip on how to give a gift that is also tax-deductible. For those who were unable to come into the station, there’s still time to get your ticket! The Restoration Station is here to help place you on the right track to financial freedom. I touched on the 7 tools in the video, and will discuss them in more detail here each day of the week. Please visit our Restoration Station Facebook Page to “like” and get notifications of our live broadcasts every Thursday at 11:30am, EST. We offer FREE tools to support you on your journey to financial freedom and wealth!

TOOL #1Don’t leave home without your holiday shopping budget

Placeholder Image    No one loves the word “budget”, but it will be your lifesaver and is a valuable tool to have before you head out the door to purchase gifts for your loved ones. The holidays can be stressful and we can all be easily tempted to buy an item just because it is on sale or is a flashy purchase that you know will appease your loved one. In the midst of the excitement, we rarely stop to ask “is this in my budget, or will it put me over budget?”. Taking 30 minutes out of your day to complete a simple Holiday Budget will ease your stress and assure that you do not overspend and end up regretting your purchases after the holiday adrenaline wears off. For your convenience, I’ve created a simple Holiday Shopping Budget in Excel that you can download to your phone, iPad or laptop to fill out or download the Holiday Shopping Budget PDF to print and fill out by hand to carry with you while you shop.

The budget allows room for you to list the name of your friend or family member, a description of the gift you plan to purchase and the amount you have budgeted to spend on the gift for the individual. Once you’ve listed every person on your shopping list, the total budget amount should NOT exceed the amount that you have set aside from your savings for gifts. If the total amount exceeds the amount that you have planned to spend, you should go back through your list and figure out where you can reduce an individual’s budgeted amount by either changing the type of gift they will receive (i.e. giving a bottle of wine to your Aunt instead of a silk blouse), or eliminating the person from the list altogether.

Once you’ve purchased the item, it’s important to return to the budget to fill in the amount that you actually spent on that person’s gift. This step is crucial in understanding how budgets work and helping you identify where you have saved money so that you can possibly add the savings from one person’s gift to the budget of another. I like to reward myself if I end up spending less than budgeted with a small gift or other reward equal to the total amount that I saved! The next columns are for keeping track of what was purchased (so that you remember what gift goes to which friend) as well keeping track of the items you still need to wrap and deliver to the recipients.

This budget is a very simple tool that you can use over and over again. Each year I also give my two children a budget that they can complete for their aunts and cousins. I give them a total budget and they split the list and shop for items for their close relatives. It teaches them financial literacy at a young age and shortens my holiday shopping list!

I hope you have found this tool useful. Please comment below if you have questions or feedback about how the budget worked for you. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog, Financial Freedom Press to receive the next six tools and visit The Restoration Station on Facebook for FREE resources and our weekly live broadcasts with valuable tools and information for the individual household and entrepreneur.

MT Austin and Associates , sponsor of  The Restoration Station provides accounting, financial reporting and income tax services to corporations, non profits and individuals. If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to send a message to us from the contact page of our website. We appreciate the opportunity to be of service!

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