Washington, DC – Recent news stories of data breaches have given consumers vivid examples of the many ways in which personal information can be compromised and the resulting havoc. While honest Americans are at work making a living, it has become evident that crooks are also working hard developing new ways to steal sensitive financial information for their own gain.
Although no one can prevent identity theft, consumers can take steps to protect themselves against loss through early detection. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s (NFCC) recently launched Sharpen Your Financial Focus™ program includes a 12-month membership to Experian’s freecreditscore.com™ product at no cost for eligible program participants. Among other features, the product includes credit monitoring and alerts to notify members about new activity on their credit report, a mobile app enabling alerts and updates on the go, and access to fraud resolution agents if suspicious activity is found on the person’s report.
“Consumers need to be aware of unauthorized credit activity, and one way to effectively accomplish that is through credit monitoring. It’s hard to put a price on financial peace of mind, but since the freecreditscore.com product is offered at no charge, consumers are without an excuse if they don’t take advantage of this opportunity to protect areas of financial vulnerability,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.
Federal laws protect consumers against loss, but are typically tied to a staggered notification timeframe. Therefore, the sooner a person is aware of the issue, the more likely they are to suffer little or no financial loss.
- Credit cards – Overall, credit cards offer the best protection against fraudulent transactions, with maximum liability limited to $50. If the loss or theft is reported before the card is used, the liability drops to $0. Additionally, the major card networks have $0 fraud liability plans in place.
- Debit cards – Liability for unauthorized use of a debit card may depend on whether a PIN or signature was used, with a signature usually offering more protection. If the loss or theft is reported within two business days, it limits the liability to $50. Wait more than two days and the liability can jump to $500. Wait longer than 60 days from the date of the statement containing the fraud, and losses could be unlimited.
“Although financial loss may be limited, the loss of time spent reclaiming your good name and good credit can be significant. Consumers should remain as committed to protecting their personal information, as the thieves are to stealing it,” continued Cunningham. “That’s the only thing that will level the playing field, or perhaps even tilt it in the favor of the honest folks.”
In addition to the credit monitoring and alerts, the freecreditscore.com product includes features such as access to the consumer’s credit report and score, the Score Planner™ tool which estimates the impact specific financial decisions have on the credit score, and a wealth of personal finance articles. These features all are designed to increase consumers’ understanding of credit and to provide knowledge that can be used to make educated financial decisions.
The product complements the three-step Sharpen Your Financial Focus program. Delivered through NFCC member agencies, the steps are designed to help consumers regain control of their finances while increasing the likelihood of long-term positive credit behavior changes.
The freecreditscore.com memberships were provided through a generous gift from Experian in support the financial education provided through the Sharpen Your Financial Focus program.
To learn more about the Sharpen Your Financial Focus program and take advantage of the freecreditscore.com product, reach out to an NFCC member agency. To be automatically connected to the agency location closest to you, dial 855-3-SHARPEN (855-374-2773), or go online to www.SharpenToday.org.
About the NFCC
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help millions of consumers through more than 600 community-based offices nationwide. For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC Member, call (800) 388-2227, (en Español (800) 682-9832) or visit www.nfcc.org. Visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on Twitter: twitter.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on YouTube: www.YouTube.com/NFCC09 and our blog: http://financialeducation.nfcc.org/.