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Is Big Brother Watching You?

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A way offered to "freeze out" people trying to steal your credit

We live in the computer age and it’s not just big brother who’s keeping an eye on us. Every business out there is trying to access information from our computers—and some of the reasons for doing so are not to our benefit.

The biggest concern with the “sneak and peek” activity that goes on daily with computers connected to the Internet is identity theft, whereby someone manages to gain enough information about you to successfully use your identity for their own purposes—generally with the intent to make purchases and have you pay for it. It’s estimated that every year, almost nine million people have their identity stolen, at an average cost of $6,383 per victim.

Those numbers were enough to get the “Big Three” credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to act, and consumers now have the option to install a ‘freeze’ on their credit reports, which means no one can use your information to open an account, or get credit in your name.

If you want to do so yourself, you’ll be issued a PIN number with which you can temporarily unfreeze your files. It should go without saying that you should keep this PIN number secure. Make sure that any business you give the number to in order to check your credit reports destroys it as soon as they’ve done so.

State government, of course, couldn’t resist trying to make some money off the deal. In Idaho, expect to pay $6 to place the freeze, plus another $6 every time you need to lift it temporarily or permanently remove it. It’s $10 to replace your PIN number. That’s per credit reporting agency, by the way. Montana’s charge is $3 to establish the freeze or lift it temporarily, $5 to replace your PIN, and no charge if you change your mind about freezing your credit file. Neither state charges if you are an actual victim of identity theft—expect to have to show a police report.

-Trish Gannon

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

money, finances, credit cards, credit bureaus, identity theft

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