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Consumer Watch: Protect your credit score after a breach

There are different ways to protect your credit score if you think you have been the victim of identity theft (KOKH).

We are all one data breach away from seeing an identity theft attempt. As of now, the Equifax data breach from the fall is one of the most sweeping, and downright scary exposures of sensitive information. It is important to know that deciding on a credit freeze to protect yourself, could result in different problems.

A credit freeze makes it difficult for identity thieves to create new accounts using your personal information. It's an important tool for people who know they have been the victims of identity theft, and for some elderly people.

“Maybe you are caring for an older adult, and you know that they are not going to be buying a house or buying a car, so you could put a credit freeze in place for them,” says Jennifer Lown, Chief Marketing Officer of Oklahoma Employees Credit Union.

To set up a credit freeze, you'd need to contact each credit reporting agency, and it is normally not free. Each agency charges $10 to place the freeze and another $10 each to remove it. This means spending a total of $60 on the process.

Equifax announced free freezes after its data breach.

A fraud alert is a step below a freeze. It makes it slightly more difficult to open accounts, but still possible. A business would need to verify your identity before opening another line of credit.

“It could be that you think you that you have been a victim, but you are not quite sure yet, so you want to put a fraud alert on, for some enhanced security,” says Lown.

Both a freeze and a fraud alert are good tools. If you are still expecting to make large purchases through credit lines, like buying a house or car, a fraud alert could be more beneficial, and it is free.

For a break down on who to contact, depending on whether you want a credit freeze or a fraud alert, click here. Often if you can prove you have been the victim of identity theft or are elderly, some of the cost for protection services will be waived.

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