My fellow Americans, freeze your credit report now to protect yourself from fraud!

Why? Because there is roughly a 50% chance that Equifax has lost your confidential information to the black market. What information exactly? Your social security number, your birthdate, your addresses, your name… basically everything that can be used to open credit cards, purchase a house in your name, or collect your tax returns while claiming your children as their dependents!

freeze your credit report
A graphic-rendering of someone stealing your data

First, I’m going to give you my experience in freezing my credit report today while I show you how you can easily do it yourself, as well.

Then, I’ll answer a few simple questions you may have that are burning inside your mind.

Don’t forget to check your annual credit report for free here.

How to Freeze Your Credit Report

There are three credit companies you will need to contact in order to freeze your account: Experian, TransUnion, and, the data breach culprits themselves, Equifax.

I tried doing it online through their websites and was unsuccessful on each attempt. So I moved to a method that I found was much easier to freeze your credit report: through the phone!

Before I give you the numbers you’ll have to call, make sure you have the following:

  • your social security number
  • your address (also your previous addresses if you have lived in your current residence for less than two years)
  • your birthdate
  • a credit card
  • pen and paper to record your Pin and Confirmation numbers

If you have those things, you won’t be scrambling during the phone call to retrieve them.

Equifax: 1-800-349-9960

  • Time to complete: 5 minutes
  • Cost: $0 Why? Because they know they dropped the ball and they’re trying to save face.
  • Pin and Confirmation delivered over the phone

This was the easiest of the three to complete. A simple robot asks for your information, you provide it, boom! Your credit report is frozen and you can sleep well again!

TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872

  • Time to complete: 30 minutes
    • I had to be transferred to an operator and I waited on the line for most of this time, once I was connected, the process took just a few minutes.
  • Cost: $10 (I’m from Michigan, each state is different, but Michigan is in the most expensive bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Again, easy to complete, as long as you don’t mind waiting on the phone for an operator.

Experian: 1-888-397-3742

  • Time to complete: 6 minutes
  • Cost: $10 (Again, the Michigan rate for this company, and again, the highest cost bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Though the phone call only took 6 minutes. I had to make this call twice to get through. For whatever reason, the robot system just didn’t recognize or understand what I was trying to do the first time. The second effort was a breeze, however.

So now, a few answers to some simple questions you probably have.

freeze your credit report
“I’ll take that!” Says the data thief.

Common Questions About What Happens When You Freeze Your Credit Report

Here are a few quick answers to questions about what happens when you freeze your credit report.

Does it impact my credit score?

No, not at all.

Can I still rent an apartment, buy insurance, or open a new account?

You can, but you’ll have to temporarily lift the freeze on your report. Simply contact the companies again to do this. If you’re wise, you’ll ask your new bank, insurance agency, or landlord which company they will contact to check your credit report and you can just do your temporarily lift for that company to save you time and a little bit of cash.

Does a freeze impact my current accounts?

No. However, if your current information is stolen, like, say a credit card number, a thief can still damage you in that way. The credit freeze just prevents any new, unauthorized accounts from opening in your name.

Why can’t I just use a fraud protection agency like LifeLock?

You can, but understand that the company you are using is likely just funneling your money back to Equifax, the same company that lost your information in the first place.

Likewise, the fraud protection companies can’t prevent everything. Remember the buffoon for LifeLock who braggingly plastered his Social Security number on the side of a truck and broadcasted it in television ads to show how solid LifeLock was? His identity was stolen 13 times as a result. Real nice.

How long should I keep the freeze in place?

Until you die. I’m not fear-mongering when I say this: your data may never be safe again. Thanks a lot, overly-confident, under-prepared, super-incompetent credit monitoring companies.

freeze your credit report
Me, protecting my data.

Do you have any other questions about the Equifax breach, how to freeze your credit report, or how it impacts you? I’m happy to help so leave a comment with your concern 🙂

 

 

 

 

No One is Required To Share

So my daughter brought her dinosaurs to the park, and you didn’t. You want to play with her dinosaurs, and she says no, tough luck, kid. She’s not obligated to give you a dinosaur and if you run to me to tattle on her I’m gonna say, ‘so? Get your own dinosaurs.’

Forcing your child to do anything they aren’t comfortable with, including sharing with a stranger who rudely interrupts her play session thinking they have a right to her toys, is not going to help your child develop into a well-rounded adult. Likely, your child will grow into a pushover, someone who gets used and abused by the adults who were once kids tattling on other children who wouldn’t share with them.

She loves being forced to share her hand

 

I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but teaching my daughter to not melt like a snowflake is not one of them.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

Do You Share As An Adult?

No, you don’t. If you’re at the park, ‘watching’ your kids by falling face first into your phone, I doubt very much you’re going to let me watch a few YouTube videos, no matter how politely I ask. That’s because you’re setting boundaries for yourself, and that’s okay. You don’t even have to ask for forgiveness, because non-snowflake adults will understand just fine, and the snowflakes will melt no matter what.

So when my daughter says ‘no’ to your little snowflake about her dinosaurs, teach your kid to suck it up and find something else to do instead of coddling them and suggesting to them that my daughter is the rude one.

Sharing too much can drive us crazy

Boundaries Are Healthy

Teaching my child that it’s okay to set boundaries, and that it’s equally okay to be refused something because someone else set a boundary, is part of learning to be a good person. I don’t want her to grow up thinking she has to be a super kid, to do everything that someone asks of her (like I did), or else think of herself as rude, or an incomplete person. Why? Because doing so lead me to saying yes to peer pressure throughout my young life, doing things I didn’t want to do when I was emotionally or physically exhausted, or losing time for myself because I didn’t want to appear to be rude.

Setting boundaries for yourself is what will keep you sane and healthy, and helps you avoid overexerting yourself. And if there’s one thing you should be doing, Kamal Ravikant described it well, love yourself first.

Share When You Can, Not When You’re Asked To

If you have an abundance, you should share it. If you don’t think you have an abundance to share, you’re likely lying to yourself. Unless you are on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society, then you have an abundance in someone’s eyes. And if you’re reading this post, then you’re not on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society. You have access to the internet with hands to type, you have food in your belly with fingers to pick meat from bone, you have fresh water to drink with lips to hold it in your mouth, you likely have a roof to sleep under and eyelids to close. Believe me, these are excesses that not everyone has. Let me share a story with you.

The Woman On The Street Of Hong Kong, After I Fattened Myself Up

I don’t even much like fastfood because I know how it destroys my gut’s biome, adds an inordinate amount of fat, sodium, and calories to my diet, and makes my love handles wiggle like Kim’s or Kylie’s ass. I don’t really know who they are, I just know they are over-indulgent celebrities who are known for not much more than their asses, so I’m taking an unnecessary cheap shot there to make a stupid point.

That point is that I indulge in excess without even wanting to. So when I was walking home down some streets I had never taken before in Mongkok, I heard a soft and lovely voice singing in Chinese, amplified by a small speaker. This isn’t uncommon for Mongkok, there’s plenty of street performers, hawkers, and political activists making noise in this area. But this one was different.

Beauty is where you choose to find it

As the crowd parted near the corner, choosing one road or the other to cross, I saw a woman sitting on an unfolded cardboard box, clutching a microphone between her forearm and bicep, because she had no hands. Boils were rolling over her stump of a wrist. Her ear was bulging, her eyes bloodshot and twisted. Her nose and lips weren’t even shadows on her face, they just weren’t there. Now, I can’t read Chinese well enough to understand what her story was, but if I had to guess, she had been a victim of an acid attack (obviously I can’t be sure of this, but that’s what it looked like to me).

For me, it’s automatic to avoid beggars, not because I don’t feel compassion for them, but because I generally feel that if I’m going to donate my money and time, it is going to a cause that I believe in, or a program I trust. So I walked past her and crossed the street. I could still hear her singing into her microphone, occasionally saying ‘xie xie’ (thank you in Mandarin) to people who dropped money into the box in front of her. As I made it half-way down the next block I began to realize what I had just done.

They shared balloons, and their worlds were amazing

I had just obscenely filled my belly with disgusting, tortured, chicken meat, washed it down it a bubbly cup of fat juice known as 7-up, then absent-mindedly walked past a person who has obviously had a terrible life, without a second look. I was devastated with myself. So I stopped, walked back across the street, dropped a $50 HKD bill into her box and told her what I should have been feeling from the moment I saw her, ‘Wo ai ni.’ (I love you, in Mandarin).

She didn’t pay me any extra attention than anyone else who gave her money, but she held my gaze for a moment as I told I her I loved her, and uttered in her best, broken English, ‘thank you.’ I doubt very much that it had as much of an impact on her that it had on me, but I hope she goes home tonight believing it and feeling it and knowing that her looks aren’t what make her loved or unloved. Nor is it her soft, lovely singing voice. It’s that she is a person and we should all love each other.

The only language her Chinese Grandma and my daughter currently share, is love

I walked away, tears filling up my eyes, crushed, as I thought about whatever had happened to her in her life, knowing I’m probably wrong, but accepting the fact that I’m a privileged, entitled American, with a ridiculous excess in my life. When I can, I share, but not because someone told me to, or asked me to. I shared with her because I love her, because she made me connect with my own heart and take responsibility for myself. She gave me insight into the person I am, just by being there, being strong, and being human.

Do What’s Right For you

Don’t share because you have to with everyone you see, don’t force your kids to share with snowflake kids at the park, and don’t expect anyone to have to share either their time or their money with you. Just be human, love everyone you can, and then you’ll see sharing and receiving becomes a part of your life, like breathing in and breathing out. That’s what being an adult is, that’s what it means to a raise a well-rounded child into a peaceful and loving global citizen, cognizant of the world around them. So quit melting snowflakes, and little snowflakes, realize your life is already amazing, carry on, and share what you can, when you can, and don’t melt when someone sets a boundary for themselves they don’t want you to cross.

Super People, Super Problems

In this era of super kids, it’s easy to want to your child to be superstar, a famous athlete, musical prodigy, or whatever kind of top-level person you want them to be. Our news feeds are flooded with examples of three-year-old skateboarders, 5-year-old piano masters, or 9-year-olds with the pipes of Aretha Franklin, and this gives us the idea that our own children should be up to that level. What is being forgotten is that most of us are average, our children included, and being average is exactly what our children should be. We all make mistakes and have a chance at forgiveness, but driving our kids to be outliers shouldn’t be their inherited mistake.

_DSC2181
Average kids do average things, like paint their nails with watercolor

With the massive increase in levels of depression and anxiety in American adults since 2010, is it possible we are priming our children for the same? Social media has driven us all to believe that being an exception is normal. That having millions of followers, or making six figures on Instagram and Youtube, is thought of as realistic is downright insane. There is a reason that these people are the exception to the rule: being average is the best that most of us will attain. If it wasn’t, then the average would be exceptional and the exceptional would be average. Can you see why this causes problems? The current idea is that if you aren’t special, then you aren’t loved.

Comparing Ourselves to Outliers

We’ve already set the goal posts for ourselves in relation to the freaks we see on social media. We think that we aren’t good enough, don’t have enough friends or enough likes, or that we always must be happy and prove it by posting pictures of us having an amazing day, every day. Please, hold my beer while I vomit.

_DSC2057
An average yoga session, with below average posture

Be honest with yourself, most of your days are average. You get up, you commute for hours to work, you work, you commute back, then maybe you get to have a pleasant Saturday where your child gets you full-time (pending your face isn’t buried into your phone). So why are you expecting your child to be a professional baseball player when they have the exact same child-care schedule as every other kid on your block?

The Ugliness of American Ideals

I’m a lucky S.O.B. and have spent the last four years since graduating college traveling and working on three different continents. This is partly because I love to travel, but also because I completely reject the American ideals of getting a ‘good’ job, working your life away, and having no time to yourself and your family while burying yourself in debt to fill your life with material. Instead, my 3-year-old daughter has gone to school and made friends in 5 different countries and has picked up at least a few words in as many languages. She isn’t going to be a superstar or high-earning athlete, as much as I’d like her to be, because she, like me, is average. And frankly, that’s when she is at her best.

_DSC2024
She didn’t find a single egg this Easter, but her below-average performance didn’t affect her fun at all

I’ve been teaching her to swim and snorkel recently because it’s something I enjoy. One of her most recent challenges is floating on her back and it’s been a true pain in the ass to get her to keep her ears in the water for longer than a few seconds. I push, she resists. I see 2-year-olds on Youtube diving and snorkeling easily, and I get frustrated that Auburn isn’t progressing more rapidly. We’re all prone to this type of behavior because American ideals tell us we are all special. Again, hold my beer, more vomit coming up.

Toddlers Are Excellent Teachers

So why am I ranting about this? Because my daughter recently taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve been showing her videos of other kids snorkeling and swimming, tempting her to try it more and more, and even getting angry at myself when we go a whole session without her dipping her head in the water. So what lesson did she teach me? To just let her float.

_DSC1560
Just your average chocolate cake-eater

I had given up. We were headed to the pool and I had zero intention of trying to get her to do anything with her snorkel or mask on. I just wanted to swim, let her swim, and enjoy the sunshine in one of our last days in Thailand. A few minutes into the pool and I was floating on my back, staring up at a half-moon in a blue sky circled by palm trees. I could hear the muffled sounds of people chatting and others splashing. After a few minutes, I picked my head up out of the water and saw my daughter doing exactly the same thing I was. Floating on her back, ears in the water. I hadn’t once asked her, pushed her, or even insinuated that she needs to practice any skills that day.

Let Them Float

Instead of pushing your children to learn how to swing a bat or sing like Aretha or float on their back, I’ve discovered the best thing you can do is just let them float. Show them what they can do, then let them do it. Drilling and repeating can have a positive impact on your child’s physical abilities, but take a moment to consider what telling a 3-year-old that they will be a professional athlete will do to their psyche. What happens to that psyche when they don’t become a professional athlete? Unfortunately, this type of social media-driven behavior hasn’t been around long enough to give us a clear indication of what happens, but we can look at what is happening to us adults as a clue.

If you’ve ever felt pressured that you have to post something that gets your opinion across in a flashy way, or that an Instagram photo with the perfect filter must be shown each day, imagine what that mentality does to a toddler’s brain. Imagine what kind of influence your toddler is undergoing when you are propping them up as a ‘future Chicago Bulls’ star’ in your Facebook feed. Imagine having the standards set so high for you that you constantly feel inadequate. I’m sure you don’t need to imagine, all you have to do is see how you feel when you look at all the social media icons and compare yourself to them. You’re average. Just floating.

_DSC1949
My average little Easter bunny

But there isn’t anything wrong with just floating, just being average. My daughter is at her best when I let her do what she can do on her own. I can show her a few times how to do it, but no amount of pressure from her father is going to make her love to snorkel with me or want to improve her off-foot striking skills in soccer.

Letting her be average, letting her float on her own, is the best thing I can do for her. It’s when she improves her quickest and enjoys her activities the most. My daughter likely won’t grow up to be a pro soccer player and possibly won’t ever enjoy snorkeling with me, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is to raise a healthy, well-rounded, competent individual who knows that she can do her best, fail, and still be loved. I can’t see a reason to have any other goals than that.