Credit monitoring: tedious, time-consuming, and necessary

As I write, there is a pile of clippings next to the keyboard that I look at as if they were radioactive. They’re filled with recommendations for protecting ourselves following the Equifax breach.

The earliest clipping is from shortly after the breach became public September 7. Then I got as far as step 1 of the advice: go to www.EquifaxSecurity2017.com to find out whether my information has been breached. “Based on the information provided,” said the on-screen reply, “we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.”

Not surprising, considering that 143 million people were affected.

I took up Equifax’s offer of free credit monitoring — but I still don’t know whether I’ve been enrolled. I suspect I haven’t.

“We have successfully received and are processing your information,” the site responded. “You will receive an email with a link to finalize your enrollment and activate your product. Please be patient. Due to the high volume of requests, emails may be delayed. If you have not received your email within a few days, please check your spam and junk folders.”

Weeks later, I can’t find an email, in spam or elsewhere. I call the phone number on the EquifaxSecurity2017 site. The representative, who sounds flustered, says the email may be delayed up to 72 hours. When I say it’s been at least a couple of weeks, she asks to put me on hold. When she comes back, she refers me to TrustedID, Equifax’s protection service. There I’m told I might have been “bumped off” due to the high volume of enrollment requests and should try again.

Grrh! ****! ****!

To make matters worse, I see articles warning to be careful to make sure you’re on the real Equifax page and not a fake pfishing site.

I hate anything having to do with financial monitoring. Is there anyone who doesn’t? It’s tedious. It takes too much time. It feels like you can spend your life mostly monitoring your accounts, with breaks for eating and sleeping. Sleeping is what I feel like doing as I read the advice about how to protect ourselves in light of the breach.

I am very slipshod about this stuff. I haven’t balanced my checkbook in years. Every few months I scan my statements for unusual charges. Of course I should do it more often, especially since I rely on auto deduction for nearly everything — payment of credit card charges, condo assessment, cellphone bill, and electric bill; recurring contributions; etc.

There must be software programs that would help, but I’ve never bothered to look into them.

Now in light of the Equifax breach — a company we didn’t voluntarily give our information to, needless to say — we are being advised to sign up for credit monitoring, fraud alert, credit card spending limits, or, ideally, a credit freeze; request copies of our credit reports; check our credit card and bank balances at least once a week; and change passwords monthly.

So, I’ll probably force myself to pay attention. It will take less time than whatever would need to be done if my identity is stolen. We might as well resign ourselves to paying attention forever. This won’t be the last breach.

*****

If only I could get into the mindset about monitoring my bank accounts that I have about monitoring cellphone data usage.

In August I wrote about researching how to conserve data after being warned that I’d used 75 percent of my cell data with two weeks to go in the monthly billing cycle.

I adopted a number of the suggestions, and when the next billing cycle ended September 30, only 210 GB of data, not even a quarter of my monthly allotment, was gone.

And it didn’t even feel like I was refraining from using the phone.

Here’s what I did on my phone, a Moto G Play operating with Android Marshmallow 6.0:

Set the option that applications can be automatically updated only with a wifi connection.

• Restricted background data for selected applications so that updates occur only when using the application. (It’s not advisable to do for all, since some apps depend on other apps.)

Set the Google Chrome data saver option.

• Got Pocket, an application that allows you to save articles for offline reading. (Applications like Maps, Pandora, and Spotify also allow you to save content offline so you can view or listen later without using data.)

• Took advantage of wifi connections to look for articles to save to Pocket.

Disabled unused apps.

The challenge of conserving as much data as possible was fun, especially since I could monitor results by looking at the data usage screen. Seeing how little data was used last month, I’m thinking, “Wow, maybe I should find more to do with my phone!”

I haven’t figured out how to make it fun to check for suspicious activity on a bank account. What I should remind myself is how unfun it will be if there is suspicious activity.

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