Equifax…Capital One….It seems like one massive data breach after another is in the news.
If you’ve been affected by one of them, or if you are unsure or just want to protect your identity from future data breaches, one of the best things you can to is to freeze your credit. In fact, placing a freeze on your credit data is one of the most effective ways to prevent identity thieves from using your information to steal. And it’s gotten much easier to put a freeze in place.
A credit freeze locks your credit file, which makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. You can unfreeze your account at any time to apply for new credit, and then freeze it again.
It’s important to note that a credit freeze does not stop thieves from getting into your current financial accounts and wreaking havoc, so you should keep close tabs on banking, credit cards and other financial accounts and monitor them regularly.
If you are married, you and your spouse both have to freeze your credit. If you have children, consider freezing their credit, too, until they are old enough to use credit.
A new federal law that went into effect last September makes it free to freeze your credit file with the three major credit rating companies.
To freeze your credit, you will need to file a separate request with each consumer reporting agency:
• EXPERIAN: www.experian.com/freeze or call toll-free 888-397-3742.
• TRANSUNION: www.transunion.com/securityfreeze or call toll-free 888-909-8872;
• EQUIFAX: www.freeze.equifax.com or call the automated line 800-685-1111.
If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 for guidance and support. For information about other scams, sign up for the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud.