by Ellen Sirull of Experian
2017 has been a pretty newsy year across the spectrum, to put it mildly. Politics. Weather. Cryptocurrencies. Many of these big stories can impact our financial lives.
Here are the some of the top personal finance stories of 2017 and lessons we can take from them as we head into the new year:
1. The Year of the Data Breach: Keep an Eye on Your Accounts.
Most experts say the Equifax data breach will impact approximately 143 million people. Unfortunately, data breaches aren’t likely to decrease next year, so it’s important to stay alert. The biggest takeaway from this is to vigilantly watch your credit and credit card accounts.
Check your statements closely and check your credit report regularly to flag any potential signs of identity theft and fraud early on. There are also some important steps to take to protect your personal information and minimize the impact after a data breach.
2. Krack: Make Sure Your Devices and Wi-Fi Networks Are Secure at Home.
Whether your home has all the latest smart devices or you just use your home internet to catch up on news and chill on Netflix, there are software updates and other best practices to stay safe while using online devices and the Internet of Things (IoT).
3. Credit Reports and Scores: Know What’s Changed.
Some of the ways things are reported on your credit report changed this year, and this could impact your credit scores, depending on your situation. For instance, civil judgments and tax liens now require some additional criteria before they can appear on your credit report.
And if you have dealt with credit repercussions for any medical collections or debt, things may look different for you as well. By regularly checking your credit reports and FICO® Score, you’ll see changes over time.
4. Passwords: New Best Practices Have Emerged.
This summer we learned from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that we should reconsider the way we deal with our passwords. For instance, the best way to have a secure password statistically (so as to not be hacked by bad guys) is to string together four or five unrelated words with spaces and make it something you can remember.
Also, only change your passwords if you think your account has been breached. Check out all the details on the latest password guidelines here to make sure you keep all your passwords healthy in the new year.
5. Email Scams: Whatever You Do, Don’t Click on Links in Emails Unless You’re Positive They’re Legit.
Scammers are always trying to get your information. As we move into 2018, stay alert for potential phishing emails. There are still old school methods — like stealing mail from your mailbox — that are used by identity thieves.
The dark web is also a place where your information can be bought and sold by fraudsters for ridiculously low amounts (it’s a little crazy when you find out how little some of your information may be worth on the dark web).
6. Financial Literacy: Sometimes It’s Best to Tackle the Basics.
Budgeting and basic financial literacy aren’t so commonplace these days. There are common myths related to credit and finance that may end up hurting you, so it’s best to kick off 2018 by understanding what’s true and false.
Also, by understanding the details about credit scoring ranges, you’ll be in the know when it comes to how your credit scores may impact important things like getting a loan or credit card and paying lower interest rates. Paying off debts and saving more can set you up for a better 2018, 2019 and beyond.
7. Credit Freezes: Know When You Should or Shouldn’t Freeze Your Credit.
Another thing touted after the Equifax breach is that you should just freeze your credit. This very well may be the best step for you. But, there are things to know before you freeze: if you’re looking to open a new account or apply for a new loan, freezing may not be in your best interest. As we move into next year, make sure you understand what comes along with freezing or look into fraud alerts.
Essentially, the best steps you can take to keep your credit and personal information intact in the new year are to stay vigilant in watching accounts and regularly check your credit report.
* This article originally posted on the Experian blog.
Ellen Sirull is senior manager of content at Experian Consumer Services, a division of Experian, the nation’s largest credit bureau. In her role, she helps consumers learn about credit, personal finance and identity theft protection.