In the wake of the news that the credit-reporting firm Equifax had been hacked, many consumers across the country were left feeling vulnerable. However, no matter which entity is hacked, there are important steps each of us should take to keep our data safe.

Mainers of all ages should place a freeze on their credit report (sometimes known as a “credit file”). Because a security freeze safeguards a person’s credit report, it is one of the most effective ways to protect consumers from identity theft. Without access to the sensitive information housed in your credit report, an identity thief is unable to obtain credit in your name. In Maine, freezing and unfreezing your credit report is free.

You need to place the credit freeze with each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax online, by mail or by telephone. Each bureau will also provide you with a free copy of your credit report annually upon request.

Parents and grandparents should place a freeze on their children and grandchildren’s credit reports as well.

It is also recommended that you closely monitor your bank and credit card statements and report any unfamiliar charge, even if it is a small amount. Scammers will often charge a “test charge” on a stolen credit card to verify the number. This amount is usually just a few cents so many people don’t report it.

For more information visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. During an era of unprecedented data breaches, placing a freeze on your credit report and closely monitoring your accounts has never been more important.

Michael Parent

AARP Maine Fraud Watch Network Volunteer

Portland

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