5 Ways to Protect Your Credit & Identity During COVID-19
The economic crises we are facing is unprecedented. It’s challenging to ascertain what the future holds with over 20 million job losses in the United States. People are anxious, stressed out, and worried about their future. Although protecting your credit and identity should always be top of mind, it is even more critical to protect your credit & identity during COVID-19. The last thing any of us needs are issues with our credit score, or worse, our identity.
As we all know, the COVID crisis is not localized. Every corner of the earth is experiencing its effects. According to reports from Global News, the coronavirus has taken a significant toll in Italy. Over 41% of those polled said they are worried about their financial future. Now that the U.S. has exceeded those cases, the number of Americans that are worried about their financial future is on the rise.
PROTECT YOUR CREDIT & IDENTITY DURING COVID
WATCH FOR PHISHING SCAMS
Some great programs are currently available to help provide financial relief to both individuals and businesses. However, scammers are playing on people’s fears and anxieties around COVID-19. As local government assistance continues to come forward, it’s essential to know that government agencies such as the IRS, Medicare, Medicaid, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Social Security rarely call consumers directly. They also less commonly ask for a fee of any kind over the phone.
Additionally, there are fake government websites that are lurking around the internet. Keep an eye out for a lock at the top left corner of the URL and if the domain is a .gov. If you see these, the website is likely safe. Think you may have ended up on an unsafe site? It’ll be important to monitor your identity online. You can also take additional precautions by investing in Identity Fraud Insurance*, which comes free with your SmartCredit membership.
When it comes to COVID-19, the number of active cases is continually changing. Our experts have an idea but no clear roadmap to how the next 3-6 months will be, causing an air of uncertainty around the future. Because of this, it is vital to create punctilious budgets. If you foresee an issue with your future finances, consider tightening your budget to ensure that you will have enough funds to cover your future expenses. You can also plan your spending with ScoreMaster®. ScoreMaster allows you to know the optimum time to apply for a new credit card, auto loan, or mortgage, watch how spending and payments can lower or increase your score, and keep an eye out for credit card fraud.
If you’re having trouble making payments, you might be able to temporarily lower your payments, defer your debts or mortgage, or lower your interest rates. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many lenders have put policies into place to help their customers gain extra time to complete their payments. If you know that you won’t be able to pay a bill by its due date, reach out to your lender to find out about any available hardship options.
REPORT LOST CARDS IMMEDIATELY
With the easing of restrictions, you may soon be in a situation where you become absent-minded and forget your credit card. It has happened to us all, especially when you haven’t shopped for months. If such an unfortunate event occurs, there is no need to worry. Just call the credit card company and report it lost immediately. The sooner you report a card stolen, the less likely you’ll be hit with a future fraudulent transaction.
PROTECT ONLINE & IN-STORE PURCHASES
There are a few precautions you can take when sliding your credit cards for commercial transactions. Firstly, store your credit card in a secure location at all times. Be cognizant during the checkout line for transactions done at stores. As soon as you complete your purchase, double-check to see if you placed your card back. Only allow very secure payment portals to remember your credit card number. Examples of these include Google Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal. A practice that would even keep your transactions more secure would be not to use the “remember card number.” In our day and age, online purchases are unending. Before you consummate an online transaction, ensure that the website is secure and authentic. Make sure that the URL for the site is trustworthy. There must be an “s” at the end of the http for the web address. Also, make sure that you see a lock icon. If your credit card was placed in jeopardy, you can set spending alerts, and set daily transaction reports with the SmartCredit Money Manager.
We are in a time of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty due to COVID-19. Take a step back and remain positive about the future. The future is in your hands, and you can take the steps necessary to keep it protected. If you have any additional questions about how to protect your credit & identity during COVID, please feel free to browse more information on our website and social media pages.