Freeze your credit file!

I’m not one of those crazy fear mongers that like to talk about the end of the world, etc. I am an pessimist most of the time though. There’s been tons of blog posts and even the media has told people to do this. It used to cost money to freeze your credit file. Because of security breaches, the government made this free. You should take advantage of this. The reason I’m posting this is because there are still many people I know that haven’t done this and very few people that I talk to have. You’ll hear about a new data breach once every few months or so and sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s not. Regardless, your information is probably out there for purchase on the dark web. Back when Scott McNealy was CEO of Sun Microsystems, he said “You have zero privacy anyway … Get over it.” I think it’s truer today than ever.

That said, even if you data isn’t out there, you should protect yourself. One important way is to freeze your credit report. The links are below, but they can change at any time.

Note: You can unfreeze anytime for free and it’s instantaneous, but if you’re looking to get a bank loan, mortgage, credit card or something else that will require your credit to be checked, you might want to do that before freezing your credit files. If you have already frozen your credit files and need credit cards, etc, just ask them which credit bureau they’ll be running. Most banks will tell you. When they do, you can do temporary lifts and it’s a pretty simple process.

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Experian was hacked a few years ago and gave up a bunch of T-Mobile customer data.

https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/

Oops. I couldn’t freeze on Equifax’ website. Ended up having to call them. 888-298-0045. At least you can do it through the automated system. No need to talk to a person.

https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze

TransUnion was hacked in 2019 and shared a bunch of data on Canadians.

All credit bureaus have been breached at some point. They will be hit again. Please, freeze your credit files.

Some additional things to do are to keep an eye on your finances and monitor your personal credit report and financial activity. Nearly every bank now will also do credit monitoring for free. Sign up if you need to. If your bank doesn’t do it, find one that does.

Don’t buy/give gift cards! Store bought Visa gift cards are unsafe!

Unless someone really wants a gift card like the ones in the photo, I would not recommend it! They’re unsafe and prone to hacking. I’ve been burnt twice now for over $600 with no recourse. I bought these because I wanted to pay off some bills with American Express. Because those providers didn’t take AMEX, I bought Visas to do it with. I left the cards sealed and unopened in my drawer figuring that I would just use them later.

The first time I ran into an issue was when I logged into the website and saw that my $500 gift card had only $2 on it! Turned out that somehow, it was used at Gamestop for $497.xx. I had no idea how that could’ve happened! The card was in my drawer and I had just opened it! I emailed the company to file a dispute and I got this response:

  
CONTENT SOLUTIONS COMPANY
Communication Update    Subject: charge dispute  Hello,   Our team is currently working on your Case CS2767575 and has the below update. Thank you for your patience with this matter.   Comments:
Hello,

As stated in your Account Agreement, account discrepancies are to be communicated to us no later than 60 calendar days after the transaction history was first made available to you. Unfortunately, we did not receive your inquiry within this time limit. We have no recourse to recoup these funds for you.

Therefore, we are unable to credit your account, thus closing this dispute. Although we are not able to assist you further, we urge you to pursue this matter directly with the merchant.

We appreciate your business and value you as a customer. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact our Customer Service Department at the number or website address listed on the back of your card. This inbox is used strictly to receive documentation, or information requested related to the disputes processes. We are unable to provide account or disputes updates and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you,
Customer Dispute Services
   Case Status Tracker (Resolved)    What Next? Our customer service team will reach out to you shortly regarding your issue.     Any Questions?   Click here to reply.                                                                      
 

Sure, I let the card sit in my drawer for a long time, but the card hadn’t expired. How did it get used!?

My best guess as to how the card got used: Their website sucks. Now, it has a little stupid check to see if you’re human – shows you a picture of a toy that you need to rotate and when you finally get it, you could check your cards – register the card to use online, check balance, etc. I think maybe the theft happened prior to this security measure was put in place. Maybe it wasn’t. Anyway, I think someone had a script that generated numbers against their website for CVV matches and return the gift card values.

I was unlucky. Hope you’re not next. If you must buy gift cards, definitely have a plan on using them. If someone gave you one, try to use it asap. Some ideas on how to use them – obviously, it’s best to get cash for them if possible. It’s possible, but not easy. I’ve traveled to different places where Walmart cashiers are oblivious and would sell money orders for them. Most Walmarts will not. I’ve also loaded a bluebird card with one as well. Unfortunately, none around me will do it. I think it’s just how lucky you are. The way I use the cards is by doing my regular spend and all of my bills. T-Mobile takes them, I’ve used them for my water bills and energy bills as well. It’s great that I could use them to the penny.

Hope this helps!

By the way, if you’ve been screwed like me and think this is worthy of a class action lawsuit, please let me know and I would love to join.