Freeze your credit to protect from data breaches

Posted at 3:03 PM, Feb 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-25 10:38:12-05

You can't go a week anymore without hearing about a security breach.

Target, Home Depot, now Anthem.

It seems no matter where you do business, you could be hit with a security breach.

In the case of Leslie Yeoman, it led to identity theft.

"They told me there was some cell phone and some cable set up in my name," she said.

Companies involved typically offer a year of free credit monitoring.
But cyber security expert Apolonio Garcia of Healthguard IT Security says while that is better than nothing, a better way to protect yourself is with a paid service like Lifelock.

"Lifelock and similar companies have plans from $10 to $50 a month," he said.

But he says there's a less expensive option that can work just as well, if not better:  Freeze your credit, which locks it like a bank vault.

"You can apply for a freeze on your credit account, through Experian and others,"  Garcia said.

How to freeze your credit

To initiate a freeze:

  • Go to the 3 credit bureau websites: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
  • You need a separate freeze at each one.
  • Look for their freeze sign up  page, being careful of links to "credit monitoring services," that will cost you $120 a year.
  • Expect to pay a one time fee of $10 at each bureau. The total will be around $30, but it is a one-time fee only.

Some states will allow you to do it for $5 at each bureau, while if you are a victim of credit theft, you can usually get a freeze free of charge.

I've done a freeze myself: I admit it makes it a bit trickier to buy a car or house, because you have to unlock your credit with a pin number every time you want a loan.

But it's a lot better than becoming a victim like Leslie Yeoman, and having to fight to get your name back.

"You just feel real violated.  It's like who's doing this to me?" she said.

So check your credit, consider a credit freeze, and sign up for monitoring if your credit card or another company offer it.

That way you boost your security and you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the E.W. Scripps Co. Like John Matarese on Facebook and follow John on Twitter @JohnMatarese