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Consumer Reports: How to prevent thieves from stealing your information

protect your identity

If you were one of the millions of victims of the recent raid on debit and credit card information at stores, there is now another reason for concern.

Patrick was shocked to find out that after he shopped at Target, thieves were able to go to town and rack up purchases on his American Express Card.

American Express replaced Patrick’s card but there is still the danger that thieves could use the stolen information to try and get his social security number and then open new accounts in his name.

Target says it is offering “peace of mind” against that threat with free credit monitoring from Experian.

However, Consumer Reports says that is not enough.

Margot Gilman, with Consumer Reports, said, “The problem is that each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion and Experian, can collect different information. So unless you’re checking all of them, you can miss someone trying to steal your identity and open new credit.”

Consumer Reports says data breaches are an ongoing threat to better protect yourself against identity theft and fraud.

Experts say you should not only get credit reports from all three credit bureaus but consider having them place a security freeze on your credit file.

Gilman said, “A security freeze is one of the best protections. It blocks access to your credit information and makes it more difficult for a crook to open a new account under your name.”

Also, routinely monitor your accounts for fraudulent activity.

Officials say you should be vigilant about your debit card because if it is compromised, thieves can raid your bank accounts.

That can create a cascade of issues including bounced checks and extra fees.

Consumer Reports says most of the security protections you can put in place are free or low-cost, so there is no need to get expensive data-monitoring services.