How to protect your Credit from Identity Theft

In my free time I enjoy riding my Felt road bicycle. There is a cliché amongst cyclists, “there are two types of bikers, those who have crashed and those who haven’t crashed yet”. The same can be said about identity theft. It seems like once a week I read headlines such as Sony Hackers Claim to Have Credit Cards, and, Senate panel quizzes IRS on tax-return identity theft.From what I can tell there are no indications that identity theft will decline anytime soon either.

Twice during the past two years I have received letters from companies I have trusted with my personal information that hasn’t been able to keep it secure. The letters are suspiciously similar, almost as if they are written by the same copywriter because they include similar language such as, “we always do our best…violated policy…theft of information…we can’t say for sure…regrettably”, yada, yada yada. The letters inevitably end by  the offending party promising one year of free credit monitoring from only one of the three credit reporting agencies. But credit monitoring after a breach of your personal information is like buying homeowners insurance only after you smell smoke. The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to place a security freeze on your credit files. This will prevent anyone, including yourself from opening new accounts without first thawing your files by using the unique codes that only you will have.

There are the three bureaus and each have unique procedures for requesting a credit freeze. If you have been a victim of Identity Theft there is never a charge for the freeze. Otherwise there is a charge of $10 per individual bureau freeze, North Carolina residents are exempts from the charges under any circumstance.  The following are links to the three consumer credit reporting agencies to freeze your credit with  Transunion, Experian and Equifax:

http://www.transunion.com/corporate/personal/fraudIdentityTheft/fraudPrevention/securityFreeze.page

http://www.experian.com/consumer/security_freeze.html

http://www.equifax.com/answers/help/security-freeze/en_cp