The best way to prevent identity theft is to freeze your credit, a little known and little used tactic. The second is to chose a harder password (more on that below). I learned both these tips last week during a savvy-shopping summit hosted by ShopSmart magazine, which is published by Consumer Reports.
New York Times’ Ron Lieber, who writes the Your Money column, shared the first nugget. The good thing about freezing your credit, which is NOT the same as literally freezing your credit card in a block of water, is that no company can open an account in your name this way. (The exception is any company you already have an account with.) So if a criminal, or your next door neighbor, is trying to open an account in your name, no dice. A bank, mortgage lender, or other company won’t be able to
access your frozen account, disabling them from establishing a new line of credit.
The downside is that it costs about $20 to freeze it, and then it costs a little more money to thaw it. You can set a credit freeze online that takes place almost immediately at all three credit bureaus: set a credit freeze at Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.
The second nugget comes from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who spoke at the ShopSmart summit.
“Chose harder passwords,” Bezos said. Your online bank might be super secure, but if you use the same password for a low-security site, criminals may get access to the weak site and use that password for sites that are harder to crack.
Do you use the same password for multiple sites?
Shhhhhheeeeyyyeeeeesss. (That’s me shushing you while admitting guilt.)
A good way to remember all those uber-difficult passwords you’re going to set is a smartphone app that save your passwords. Remember the password for the app, and up pop all your other passwords so you don’t have to remember them. Anybody got one to recommend?