Want to protect your identity? Consider a fraud alert or credit freeze

Most of us expect our personal information to stay just that: personal. But as data breaches become more common everyday, Americans are losing millions of dollars.

If you are looking for ways to protect your identity there are two options to consider: Fraud alerts and credit freezes.

They are two of the easiest and most reliable ways to protect your personal information like your bank account number, Social Security number and credit cards.

A fraud alert makes companies verify your identity before granting new credit in your name. That usually means calling you to see if it’s really you looking to open a new account.

To do this, all you have to do is call any one of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion). A fraud alert is free and lasts one year.

A credit freeze limits access to your credit report so no one, including you, can open new accounts until the freeze is lifted.

To be fully protected, you must place a freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies.

You’ll usually get a PIN or password to use each time you place or lift the freeze. A credit freeze is free and lasts until you lift it.

So which one is right for you?

Both fraud alerts and credit freezes can make it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.

With a fraud alert, you keep access to your credit, but freezes are generally best for people who aren’t planning to take out new credit. That’s usually best for older adults, people under guardianship and children.

And the No. 1 way to protect yourself from identity fraud: Never give your personal information away unless you are 100% sure who you’re dealing with.

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