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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Credit Freeze

On the right column of this blog, you will see a list of favorite websites.  The third one down is a blog called "Krebs on Security".  I highly recommend reading his blog at least weekly.

Brian Krebs was a reporter for the Washington Post from 1995 to 2009, and now is a freelance web reporter.  He is one of the most respected reporters in the field of cyber-crime, and apparently receives quite a few anonymous tips from insiders of credit agencies, banks, and security firms.

As a result of his reporting, he recently earned the wrath of several cyber-criminals.  In one instance, he was "Swatted".  In another instance, an angry mobster sent heroin to Krebs' home from the Silk Road website, with the intent of informing the police he was dealing drugs.  Fortunately Krebs had been monitoring that crime forum, was aware of the plan, and notified the police in advance.

The other thing an angry criminal did was locate his personal data and post it on a crime forum.  The only reason Krebs did not suffer massive Credit Theft is because he had previously taken precautions for this very event.

This is the point where the story starts to involve you, dear reader.

Krebs' opinion is that so many large companies and government agencies have now been hacked that pretty much everyone's personal information has been compromised at this point.  This means anyone reading this is at risk for being a victim of credit fraud or ID theft (which are not the same thing).

I respect Kreb's opinion, and I also respect his suggestions on what you can do to protect yourself.  For those who are interested, he recommends placing a credit freeze with the three major credit rating agencies.

A credit freeze prevents the opening of new credit accounts in your name.  You can unfreeze as necessary to open new lines of credit (say for purchasing a vehicle), and then freeze it again afterwards.

In most states it costs $10 to establish a freeze (for a total of $30 to freeze with all three agencies). All other states cost less, or are free.

Here's the information you will need when you make the calls:
  • Your social security number
  • Street address (just the digits)
  • Date of birth
  • Zip code
  • A valid credit card (to pay the fee for the freeze)
The process is done by following an automated phone menu, which takes about 5 minutes for each freeze.

Below are the agencies to call, as well as their phone numbers.  If you don't trust these phone numbers or links from a random internet blog (I wouldn't!!!!), feel free to locate each of the agencies with a search engine and gather the information for yourself.

Equifax (866) 349-5191

TransUnion (888) 909-8872

Experian (888) 397-3742

The rest is up to you... :)

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