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Protect your identity with these safeguards

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 5:05 p.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

Remember to protect your personal data from prying eyes.

That means never throwing in the trash statements containing your credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Either invest in a home shredder or take advantage of shred events throughout McHenry County – at your local bank, township or at a county-sponsored shred event.

Check your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus at no cost at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure no unapproved charges have been made to your account. You might wish to stagger the reports throughout the year to check for any changes.

Never give any personal data (social security number, credit card number or bank data) over the phone or online unless you are sure the recipient is legitimate and the channel is secure. If your purse or wallet is stolen, call your credit card holder immediately and cancel your cards. File a police report and notify the credit bureaus of the theft.

Once an identity has been stolen, it could be months or years before the issue is cleared up, so being proactive and using the preventive steps mentioned above make the most sense.

•••

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of McHenry County is one of the member agencies of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), which has joined its colleagues around the U.S. in providing clients with a new program called Sharpen Your Financial Focus.

Having experienced recent unemployment and impending mortgage default and foreclosure, many families are still suffering ongoing financial difficulties.

In the opinion of Judge Nelson A. Diaz, NFCC board Member and former general counsel to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, many of the financial difficulties experienced by individuals and families are the result of a lack of financial skills.

Several major financial institutions have joined with the NFCC membership to offer this new program, which is designed to personalize the advice given by experts, including the NFCC certified financial professionals available locally at CCCS of McHenry County.

The program being offered consists of three steps, which may be taken by individuals in whatever order they desire and which meet their particular needs and availability. The steps include: an online personal self-analysis, a one-on-one counseling session with an NFCC certified financial professional, and a so-called “deep dive” educational program, which is designed to fit the consumer’s specific needs.

This new program, intended to personalize a consumer’s strategy for achieving financial stability, has been designed through a partnership between NFCC and: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, GE Capital Retail Finance and Wells Fargo. As the program progresses, these partners will attempt to recruit other financial institutions to join the partnership. Each of the financial partners has contributed a minimum of $1 million to the program.

As part of the counseling session, if it would be helpful to the individual’s circumstances, Experian credit bureau has offered a free credit score to those participating in the SYFF program. The score will be accessed by the counselor at the time of the counseling session.

NFCC will be engaging in an extensive outreach effort, which will include digital, TV and radio advertising. These ads will encourage consumers to contact their local NFCC member agencies by phone or online.

Anyone interested in learning more about the program, or any of the steps specifically, can visit the national websites www.SharpenToday.org or www.AgudiceHoy.org, or call CCCS of McHenry County at 815-338-5757.

• Virginia Peschke is executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of McHenry County in Woodstock.

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