Consumer Reports: Fraud alert vs. credit freeze

If you suspect you're a victim of the Equifax data breach, you should have already placed a security freeze on your credit files. It's the nuclear option of credit protection and should help close the door on anyone trying to set up a fraudulent account in your name.

But Consumer Reports says there are several other things you could be doing, to put a wall up around your money.

First, set-up and activate two-factor authenticationon any of your financial accounts that offer it, including mobile banking, credit cards and a home equity line of credit. It's an important, extra-layer of protection. So it's your password plus a code that's texted to your cell phone that only you have, or it's your password plus, possibly, a scan of your fingerprint.

Next, secure your mutual funds. Investment firms aren't required to restore assets stolen by hackers. Two big investment firms, Fidelity and Vanguard, do have reimbursement policies in online hacking cases. But you should check the coverage details with your own investment manager. If your investment company doesn't explicitly say that it reimburses stolen funds, consider moving your money elsewhere.

Finally, don't forget the simple move of placing a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus. It's free and provides a first-step warning to potential lenders not to open accounts in your name without taking extra steps to verify it's actually you applying for the credit. It's important to get a copy of your credit report so you can monitor regularly for fraud.

Consumer Reports says being more diligent about reviewing account statements, as well as keeping up-to-date security on any computer or other device you use to access accounts can also add to your financial protection.

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