A lesser known identity theft tip: Freeze your credit

An unidentified shopper swipes a credit card to make a purchase. (AP IMages)

Millions of people were affected by identity fraud last year, up 16 percent from 2015, according to a new study from Javelin Strategy & Research.

Special Agent in Charge William Woods said a big part of it is the data breaches that continue to occur.

“You hear about companies, whether it’s Target, Home Depot, medical suppliers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, and even in federal government we had our office of personal management that was hacked into and all entities store a tremendous amount of personally identifiable information on people,” Woods said.

Agent Woods added that it helps to check your credit or debit charges often. Purchases you didn’t make and bills for accounts you didn’t open are signs your identity has been compromised. Then, there’s also when getting notified by the IRS that multiple income taxes have been filed in your name.

“No legitimate company is ever going to call you on the phone and say you know, give me your date of birth, your social security number and things like that, and I know that that seems like common sense that you shouldn’t give that information out on the telephone but it’s worth repeating because a lot of people fall for it,” he said.

There’s also something Woods said he’d recommend to others out there that many don’t know about: Placing a security freeze on your credit.

There are three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax.

Woods said freezing your credit report on those sites means people can’t open fake accounts in your name.

“When you do that, even if somebody compromises your personal identifiable information – if they try to open up a credit card or a line of credit no financial institution is going to open up a new credit card or line of credit if they can’t get a credit history on you. So by locking down your own credit, you’re kind of controlling your own destiny,” Woods said.

There’s a $5 fee to do so for each site in the State of Missouri and a $10 fee for each site in Illinois.

Click here for more info.

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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