As you may have heard, the credit reporting agency Equifax had a data breach earlier this year. As a result, many millions of Americans had their sensitive credit information hacked. Keep in mind that we won’t necessarily see the negative effects of this right away. Thieves will be waiting for the hype to die down before they start stealing identities in earnest. It’s important that you realize that your children could be included in the breach. Children are 51 times more at risk of having their identity stolen as adults, a Carnegie Mellon study found. Children may not establish a credit history for years, depending on age, which means that you may not discover the fraud until after the damage has been done.

While scary, the data breach doesn’t have to completely ruin the chances your credit will survive. Here are 5 concrete things you can do today to help protect your credit.

  1. Freeze your credit report. This will keep fraudsters from accessing your information without your express permission. It’s easy to freeze and unfreeze your credit report; the state of Massachusetts charges $5 per freeze/unfreeze. Once frozen, your credit report will be inaccessible to third parties.  Visit each credit bureau’s site to get more information about placing a security freeze on your credit report.
  2. Monitor your credit report. The sites of all three credit reporting agencies have online access to your credit report, for a fee. If you haven’t downloaded your or your child’s credit report yet this year, you can access your free copy online at are many options available for credit and identity monitoring. Kim Carpentier of Valley Credit Builders recommends ID Theft Defense, powered by Kroll Factual Data, Legalshield and Primerica. When signing up for Theft Defense, make sure you cover your whole family. Only $22/mo! Find out more and sign at up
  3. Don’t forget your financial accounts! Check your bank’s website regularly for fraudulent transactions. Many banks also provide notification options for suspicious activity.
  4. Watch your mail as well. If you see any bills from creditors that are unfamiliar, open them immediately and assess if the account is an old account sold to a new creditor or a fraudulent account. The same goes for statements from the IRS. Make sure you read them carefully and call 1-800-829-1954 if you see any suspicious activity.
  5. Keep your passwords private and protected. If you are checking bank or other financial institution records online, be sure to check for secure protocol: the very beginning of your url should say https://.Google Chrome also has a “Secure” label for sites that meet their security standards. Visiting your institution on a public computer? Never save your passwords and be sure to close all browser tabs when you’re done.

Hackers and digital criminals are continually trying to penetrate secure sites that contain personal information. Using these simple steps will help to ensure your identity stays just your own.

Contact Valley Credit Builders today for assistance with any credit problems.