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Questions After the Equifax Data Breach

Questions After the Equifax Data Breach

Consumers may be at risk for many years.

 

Provided by TechGirl Financial 

How long should you worry about identity theft in the wake of the Equifax hack?

The correct answer might turn out to be “as long as you live.” If your personal data was copied in this cybercrime, you should at least scrutinize your credit, bank, and investment account statements in the near term. You may have to keep up that vigilance for years to come.

Cybercrooks are sophisticated in their assessment of consumer habits and consumer memories. They know that eventually, many Americans will forget about the severity and depth of this crime – and that could be the right time to strike. All those stolen Social Security and credit card numbers may be exploited in the 2020s rather than today. Or, perhaps these criminals will just wait until Equifax’s offer of free credit monitoring for consumers expires.

Equifax actually had its data breached twice this year.

On September 18, Equifax said that their databases had been entered in March, nearly five months before the well-publicized, late-July violation. Its spring security effort to prevent another hack failed. Bloomberg has reported that the same hackers may be responsible for both invasions.2

Should you accept Equifax’s offer to try and protect your credit?

Many consumers have, but with reservations. Some credit monitoring is better than none, but those who signed up for Equifax’s TrustedID Premier protection agreed to some troubling fine print. By enrolling in the program, they may have waived their right to join any class action lawsuits against Equifax. Equifax claims this arbitration clause does not apply to consumers who sought protection in response to the hack, but lawyers are not so sure.1   

Should you freeze your credit?

Some analysts recommend this move. You can request all three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to do this for you. Freezing your credit accounts has no effect on your credit score. It stops a credit agency from giving your personal information to a creditor, which should lower your risk for identity theft. The only hassle here is that if you want to buy a home, rent an apartment, or get a new credit card, you will have to pay a fee to each of the three firms to unfreeze your credit.1

Three other steps may improve your level of protection.

Change your account passwords; this simple measure could really strengthen your defenses. Choose two-factor authentication when it is offered to you – this is when an account requires not just a password, but a second code necessary for access, which is sent in a text message to the accountholder’s mobile device. You can also ask for fraud alerts to be placed on your credit reports, but you must keep renewing them every 90 days.1  

What other tools can help watch over your statements?

If your bank, credit union, or credit card issuer does not offer identity theft protection and credit monitoring, consider free apps such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Clarity Money. Apart from simply protecting your credit and bank accounts, programs like EverSafe, Identity Guard, and LifeLock have the capability to scan the “dark web” where personal information is sold in addition to monitoring your credit reports. (You may be able to take advantage of a free, 30-day trial.)1

When a pillar of worldwide credit reporting has its data stolen twice in five months, the trust of the public is shaken. The lesson for the consumer, as depressing as it may be, is not to be too trusting of the online avenues and vaults through which personal information passes.

TechGirl Financial    

TechGirl Financial may be reached at 800.584.3652or kim@techgirlfinancial.com.

https://techgirlfinancial.com/

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Registered Representative of and securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. TechGirl Financial and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., are not affiliated companies.

Citations.

1 – time.com/money/4947784/7-questions-you-must-keep-asking-about-the-equifax-hack/ [9/20/17]

2 – bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-18/equifax-is-said-to-suffer-a-hack-earlier-than-the-date-disclosed [9/18/17]

The Equifax Data Breach

The Equifax Data Breach 

Have you been affected? If so, how can you try to protect yourself?

 

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

 

On September 7, credit reporting agency Equifax dropped a consumer bombshell

It revealed that cybercriminals had gained access to the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans between May and July – about 44% of the U.S. population. The culprits were able to retrieve roughly 209,000 credit card numbers, in addition to many Social Security and driver’s license numbers.1

 

How can you find out if you were affected?

Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com, the website Equifax just created for consumers. There, you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number to find out. (Having to enter the last six digits of your SSN hints at how significant this breach is.)2

If you are among the consumers whose data was hacked, Equifax will ask you to return to equifaxsecurity2017.com to enroll in an identity theft protection product, TrustedID Premier. This program will provide you with free credit monitoring for a year. (The lingering question is whether your data could be used easily by criminals afterward.)1,2

 

How should you respond?

Beyond simply taking Equifax up on its offer of one year of identity theft insurance and free credit monitoring, you can take other steps.

 

Check your credit reports now.

(Unless you have already done so in the past month). You can get one free credit report per year from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. To request yours, go to annualcreditreport.com. Scrutinize your credit card and bank account statements for unfamiliar activity, and sign up for email or text alerts offered by your bank or credit card issuer(s), so that notice of anything suspicious can quickly reach you.

 

Consider changing the password for your main email account.

A weak password on that account is a low bar for a cybercrook to hurdle – and once hurdled, that crook could potentially pose as you to change the passwords on your financial accounts.3

 

Regarding bank, investment, and credit card account passwords, avoid the obvious.

Too many people use simple passwords based on their pet’s name, their last name and year of birth, the high school they attended, etc. Sadly, these same simple facts are often answers to security questions for credit card and bank accounts. Ask your bank or credit card issuer if you can use additional, random words or a PIN for passwords or security question answers. That way, you can avoid logging in using data that is in the public record. You want your password to be long and random, to make it harder for a would-be thief to guess.

 

You may want to consider paying for additional identity theft protection for years to come.

This is one way to try and shield yourself from the unauthorized use of your Social Security number, driver’s license number, email accounts, and credit card numbers.

 

If someone calls you out of the blue claiming to be from Equifax, do not cooperate with them.

Unless Equifax is returning your call, they will not contact you by phone. The same applies if you get a random, unsolicited email or text from “Equifax” – do not comply, or you may inadvertently hand over personal information to a fraudster. Stay vigilant, today and in the future.

 

              

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at 800.584.3652 or kim@techgirlfinancial.com.

https://techgirlfinancial.com/

Kim Gaxiola
Registered Representative of and securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. TechGirl Financial and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., are not affiliated companies.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – wired.com/story/how-to-protect-yourself-from-that-massive-equifax-breach/ [9/7/17]

2 – washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/09/08/after-data-breach-equifax-asks-consumers-for-social-security-numbers-to-see-if-theyve-been-affected [9/8/17]

3 – cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2017/09/devastating_data_breach_at_equ.html [9/8/17]

Life Insurance Products with Long-Term Care Riders

Life Insurance Products with Long-Term Care Riders

Are they worthwhile alternatives to traditional LTC policies?

Provided by TechGirl Financial

The price of long-term care insurance has really gone up.

If you are a baby boomer and you have kept your eye on it for a few years, chances are you have noticed this. Last year, the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI) noted that married 60-year-olds would pay between $2,000-3,500 annually in premiums for a standalone LTC policy.1 

Changing demographics and low interest rates have prompted major insurers to stop offering LTC coverage. As the AALTCI notes, the number of LTC policies sold in this country fell from 750,000 in 2000 to 105,000 in 2015. Today, only about 15 insurers offer these policies at all. The demand for the coverage remains, however – and in response, insurance providers have introduced new options.1,2

 Hybrid LTC products have emerged.  Some insurers offer “cash rich” permanent life insurance policies that let you tap part of the death benefit to pay for long-term care. Other insurance products feature similar potential benefits.1,2

As these insurance products are doing “double duty” (i.e., one policy or product offering the potential for two kinds of coverage), their premiums are costlier than that of a standalone LTC policy. On the other hand, you can get what you want from one insurance product, rather than having to pay for two.3

Another nice perk offered by these hybrid LTC products: sometimes, insurers guarantee that the premiums you pay will never rise. (Many retirees wish that were the case with their traditional LTC policies.) Whether the premiums are locked in at the initial level or not, the death benefit, coverage amount, and cash value are all, commonly, guaranteed.3

Hybrid LTC policies provide a death benefit, a percentage of which will go to your heirs. Do traditional LTC policies offer a death benefit? No. If you buy a discrete LTC policy, but die without needing long-term care, all those LTC policy premiums you paid will not return to you.3

 The basics of securing LTC coverage applies to these policies.  The earlier in life you arrange the coverage, the lower the premiums will likely be. If you are not healthy enough to qualify for a standalone LTC insurance policy, you might qualify for a hybrid policy – sometimes no medical exam is required. The LTC insurance benefit may be used when a doctor certifies that the policyholder is unable to perform two or more of the six activities of daily living (eating, dressing, bathing, transferring in and out of bed, toileting, and maintaining continence).4,5

These hybrid LTC policies usually require lump-sum funding.  A single premium payment of $75,000-$100,000 is not unusual. For a high net worth individual or couple, this is no major hurdle, especially since appreciated assets from other life insurance products can be transferred into a hybrid product through a 1035 exchange.2,3,4,6

 Are these hybrid policies just mediocre compromises?  They have critics as well as fans. Detractors cite their two sets of fees per their two forms of insurance coverage. They also point out that hybrid LTC policies are not inflation protected, so the insurance benefit is worth less with the passage of time. Also, while the premiums paid on conventional LTC policies are tax deductible, premiums paid on these hybrid policies are not.3 

Funding the whole policy up front with a single premium payment has both an upside and a downside. You will not contend with potential premium increases over time, as owners of stock LTC policies often do; on the other hand, the return on the insurance product may be locked into today’s low interest rates.

Another reality is that many middle-class seniors have little or no need to buy a life insurance policy. Their heirs will not face inheritance taxes, because their estates will not exceed the federal estate tax exemption. Moreover, their children may be adults and financially stable, themselves; a large death benefit for these heirs is nice, but the opportunity cost of paying the life insurance premiums may be significant.

Cash value life insurance can be a crucial element in estate planning for those with large or complex estates, however – and if some of its death benefit can be directed toward long-term care for the policyholder, it may prove even more useful than commonly assumed.

 Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
Registered Representative of and securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. TechGirl Financial and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., are not affiliated companies.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – tinyurl.com/ych92alo [7/21/16]
2 – nytimes.com/2016/03/06/business/retirementspecial/hybrid-long-term-care-policies-provide-cash-and-leave-some-behind.html [3/6/16]
3 – today.com/series/starttoday/have-healthy-retirement-jean-chatzky-how-pay-long-term-care-t106862 [1/10/17]
4 – elderlawanswers.com/hybrid-policies-allow-you-to-have-your-long-term-care-insurance-cake-and-eat-it-too-15541# [4/5/16]
5 – elderlawanswers.com/activities-of-daily-living-measure-the-need-for-long-term-care-assistance-15395 [11/24/15]
6 – kiplinger.com/article/insurance/T036-C001-S003-tax-friendly-ways-to-pay-for-long-term-care-insura.html [8/16/16]

 

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Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisors Services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor.

Tech Girl Financial is not affiliated with Cambridge. Check the background of this investment professional on FINRA's BrokerCheck.
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