The U.S. government has been giving people social security numbers (SSNs) since the 1930s, and even today, most people don’t understand how it works. This number serves as your identifier with the U.S. government, and depending on where you live, it can also be used as your tax identification number or insurance policy number.
Get a Free Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles U.S. consumers to a free annual credit report, but only from one of three nationwide consumer reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. File a complaint if you find an error in your report. Note that getting an annual free credit report does not mean receiving automatic monthly access to all three of your credit reports.
File an Identity Theft Report
Identity theft can occur when someone uses a name or social security number without permission, typically to access bank accounts, credit cards, and more. If you’re worried that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, file an identity theft report with law enforcement and notify creditors immediately. It might take some time for creditors and others to verify who you are and where your account is located, so it’s important not to wait if you suspect something isn’t right.
Notify Creditors and Cancel Accounts
Once you have a firm handle on how much debt you’ll have, it’s time to notify all of your creditors that you are going through bankruptcy. Notifying creditors means making a list of each creditor (i.e., utility companies, credit cards, etc.) and drafting a letter of notification stating that you will no longer be able to pay for their services in full.
Close Accounts you Don’t Use
Do you know all those savings and checking accounts you set up when you opened your first job? You may not have used them in years, but they’re still on your credit report. Close as many of them as possible, and you will see a nice boost in your credit score. A good rule of thumb is that if it isn’t earning you any interest, then why would anyone want to lend you their hard-earned money?
Dispute Fraudulent Debts on your Credit Report
It’s reasonably common for fraudulent accounts to crop up on our credit reports, whether it’s a collector who has no right to collect a debt or an identity thief trying to open new lines of credit. Suppose you spot fraudulent information on your report. In that case, it can be fixed quickly, and you might even be able to recoup some of that lost credit score by disputing inaccurate information with one or more of the three major reporting agencies.
Monitor your Credit Reports
Credit reports gauge how good you are at handling your finances. That may seem simple, but when you’re in debt, it can seem like more effort than it’s worth. However, getting out of debt means making financial sacrifices, and monitoring your credit report is an essential part of that process.
Boost Online Security and Privacy
Keeping your personal and financial information secure is an important part of living in today’s digital world. We live more of our lives online than offline these days, so we need to be smart about protecting ourselves and our data. An excellent place to start is by ensuring you’re taking advantage of tools such as 2-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible, which adds a second layer of protection between you and hackers who want access to your sensitive information.
Use Strong Passwords Everywhere
Strong passwords (not long, but firm—and I’ll explain shortly) are an important part of safeguarding your online identity. If you’re using a password at each site you visit, take a minute to think about how hard it would be for someone else to crack that code if they wanted to. The stronger and less common (or distinctive) you make that password, the harder it is for someone else to access your personal information.
Consider Freezing Access to Personal Information
It sounds extreme, but it’s a relatively painless way of protecting yourself against identity theft. Whenever you can, freeze access to personal information, credit card numbers, and bank account details, for example, with each of those companies. If someone tries to open an account using your information, they won’t be able to do so without unfreezing that data first. This is particularly important if you have recently become a victim of fraud or know that there are instances where your information has been compromised.
Clean Up your Social Media Presence
If you’re applying for a loan or starting a new credit line, you’ll want to clean up your credit first. This means cleaning up anything on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social platform that could reflect poorly on you. This can be done in a few different ways. First, check out these articles on improving your credit standing with these three major bureaus. Next, ensure all your accounts are paid on time and have no outstanding balances.
Social Security Disability benefits are paid for by taxes collected on income (yours and your employer’s). You can receive disability payments if you contribute payroll taxes to Social Security. You must also have earned enough wages during a specific period called substantial gainful activity or SGA. Please visit our website to learn more about how much money you can make and still collect benefits based on past earnings.