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Change passwords, monitor credit to avoid identity theft

Posted April 4

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— Whether records were not shredded, as happened at the DMV, or information was compromised in a mega data breach, it’s important to take charge of your personal security.

It’s important to change your username and passwords immediately when you’re a breach victim and periodically when you’re not. A strong password is at least 10 characters, and includes upper and lower case letters as well as a number and a symbol.

Also make sure to monitor your accounts online. Don’t wait for a statement to find a problem. Sign up to get email or text alerts about transactions, especially potentially fraudulent ones.

It’s also a good option to check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Users get three free ones per year, one from each of the big credit bureaus.

Also consider a credit freeze, especially when your social security number is compromised. Identity thieves use social security numbers to open new lines of credit. A freeze cuts off access to your credit history. It's free for identity theft victims and can be temporarily lifted when you need to apply for credit. 

As far as theft protection services, those services can cost $100 to almost $300 per year. Consumer Reports says don't waste your money. You can do most of what they offer for little or no expense.

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