By Senior Officer Larry Jacobs

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation. Our personal information is everywhere and we do a very poor job protecting it. Some basic things you can do is to have a good quality cross cut paper shredder, do not carry your social security card with you, do not put outgoing mail in your mailbox and check your bank account and credit card statements on a regular basis. One of the best things you can do is to put a Credit Freeze on your credit accounts. A Credit Freeze will prevent someone from opening an account and using your credit information. I highly recommend this cheap and easy method to protecting yourself. You can still be a victim of identity theft, but freezing your credit is quick way to add another layer of protection.

Clark Howard has come up with an easy guide for you to complete a credit freeze:

Credit freezes are one of the most effective tools against economic ID theft available to consumers. They allow you to seal your credit reports and use a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know and can use to temporarily “thaw” your credit so that legitimate applications for credit and services can be processed. That added layer of security means that thieves can’t establish new credit in your name even if they are able to obtain your ID.

Freezes have been available for free to victims of ID theft for some years, but recently all three of the major credit bureaus adopted new rules allowing non-victims to have access to credit freezes as well for a small fee. In addition, most states and Puerto Rico have adopted laws establishing credit freezes for residents of their state.

The cost ranges from $3 to $10 per person per bureau to freeze a credit report; a couple of states have higher fees. (For Georgia residents, the cost is $3 per freeze, free for those 65 and over and free for victims of ID Theft with a valid police report).

The cost to “thaw” your reports for one creditor — or for a specific period of time — range from being free to $10.

When shouldn’t you freeze your credit?

If your credit reports are accessed often for work or because you create new accounts with various financial institutions on a regular basis, it is not suggested that you freeze your accounts. The costs to continually “thaw” your reports would tend to be excessive.

Three credit bureaus that offer credit freezes:

  • Equifax – www.equifax.com, click on “Request a security freeze”
  • Experian – https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
  • Transunion – www.transunion.com/, click on “Security freeze” under Identity Theft category

Senior Officer Larry Jacobs works in the crime prevention division of the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached at larry.jacobs@sandyspringsga.org.