Ask Terry Questions Internet security question on credit access

Internet security question on credit access

By Terry Savage on May 18, 2014 | Credit/Debt

Terry:

My elderly in-laws (88 and 89 years old) are in the process of moving out of their home and into an independent living facility. They sent in an application along with a check deposit. The application had a lot of information on it: social security numbers, birth dates, their signatures, and address. A few days after the application and check were mailed, my sister-in-law called the facility and asked if they received the application and check.

For whatever reason, the person managing the move-in sent the application and a copy of the check to my sister-in-law via e-mail (I believe this was some type of confirmation.

The problem is that she sent it to the wrong e-mail address. She was off by a letter and it turns out that it went to a valid e-mail address.

Can you let us know what we should do to insure their investments and privacy is protected.

Thanks,

Terry Says:  This is a HORRIBLE mistake.  I always try to avoid sending sensitive info by email — and I’m sure you would have objected, too, if you had known.   There is no real protocol for this.  Frankly, I would try to contact the person who must have received the email,  explaining what happened.  I would try to get a sense if it was someone who might be likely to mis-use the info — though that would really be difficult to tell.

Then I would contact each of the three credit bureaus and put a credit “freeze” on the account.  If you make a police report, there will be no charge.  Otherwise it will be about $15 to put it on at each bureau (www.TransUnion.com; www.Experian.com, and Equifax.com), and another fee to remove it later on.   And it should go on each of your parent’s credit report. (You can get a direct link to the bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com — which is the government mandated free site for getting your credit report from each bureau.)

If you have to pay fees to install a credit freeze, then I would suggest you present the bill to the “person handling the move-in” — It should be her responsibility to pay for this added layer of protection.  Or you can buy a “credit watch” service, which may cost as much as $12.95 a month, such as Lifelock.  That means they will  notify you if someone tries to open new credit in your parent’s name.  But you should also log on to their bank account (even if it means setting up online banking for the first time) to regularly check the balances in their checking account, and on their credit cards.

Since they are moving, and you have to contact their financial institutions anyway, to change mailing addresses, this might be a good time to get yourself added to their account for online access, so you can stay on top of this.

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