Find out useful tips about how you can protect yourself and your information.
In 1999, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act was enacted in order to require "companies to give consumers privacy notices that explain the institutions’ information-sharing practices. In turn, consumers have the right to limit some – but not all – sharing of their information." The enforcement of this act protects the privacy of the information you share with the companies with whom you do business. In addition to this protection, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy on a daily basis.
Company Privacy Policies
One of the most important things that you can do to protect yourself is to read the privacy policies provided by the companies with whom you do business. Businesses that will send you privacy notices include:
- Credit Card Companies
- Insurance Companies
- Automobile Dealerships
- Mortgage Brokers
- Anyone you share personal/financial information with
- What type of information is collected.
- How the information is to be used.
- The circumstances under which your personal information can be shared with 3rd parties.
- Instruction on how to limit the sharing of your personal information.
As a consumer, it is also important to monitor your credit report. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have a right to receive a free copy of your credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion every twelve months. To access this free report, you may go to annualcreditreport.com or call the credit bureaus directly. (Please note: Although there are other services that can provide you with a credit report, Senior Reverse Mortgage does not endorse these or any other commercial sites.) You can obtain another report at any time, but it may not be completely free. You may also be eligible to receive more than one free report within a twelve month period if you are denied credit or if any of your accounts are put under a "fraud alert". Your credit report contains important information, such as:
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Your Employer
- List of any report inquiries within the pas 12 months
- Payment history of any credit given to you
- Public record information such as tax liens
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In order to protect your personal information from being misused, such as identity theft, you should always review your monthly financial statements to ensure that there are no unfamiliar charges. It is also important to shred documents with sensitive information before throwing them away. Always be careful to protect your information by not sharing your Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) with anyone and only providing personal information to those whom you know to have a legitimate need for the information.
With the internet becoming an increasingly popular way to conduct business, there are more people who could gain access to your information. Do not click on unknown links or provide your personal information to any unknown websites. Do not respond to any text messages, emails, or any other types of solicitation that ask you for your account information or other personal details. To ascertain the legitimacy of any messages you receive, contact the purported source of the message directly using the information that appears on your bill or that you obtain from an independent source, such as a phone book.
If you do participate in a program that gives others access to your information, be aware of what information is being shared and protect yourself using passwords. Passwords used to guard bank accounts or other personal information should not be easily guessed. You should not use your birth date, mother’s maiden name, or social security number as a password as these are easily accessible to outsiders. A guideline for creating a good password is to ensure that it contains at least one capital letter, at last one number, and at least one special character. Each of these factors makes it more difficult for an unauthorized person to gain access to your personal information.
What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen
If you notice anything unusual, such as debt collectors calling about a debt you do not have, bills that have not come, or unknown account statements coming to your address, your identity may have been compromised. If this happens, you should immediately place a "fraud alert" on your credit reports by contacting the credit bureaus directly and advising them of the situation. In addition, contact the security department of any company where you believe an account was acted upon in a fraudulent manner and, if the activity is confirmed to be fraudulent, file a police report at your local police station.
For more information on protecting your privacy, please visit the Federal Trade Commission's website at www.ftc.gov or contact your reverse mortgage loan specialist.
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