Organizations large and small, those with sloppy and with sophisticated IT security are having trouble preventing exposure of your information.  A typical use of that leaked information is to open new credit accounts with your credentials.

Credit decisions are made usually by obtaining a report from one of the three major credit reporting companies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax). 

Fortunately, you can now place a security freeze at each of the big three credit reporting agencies   This prevents new credit inquiries about you, but permits existing credit accounts to maintain and collect your account.  The process and fees vary by state, but its usually about $10, free for persons over 65 or if you are a victim of identity theft with a police report.

If you need to unfreeze it to apply for credit, you can do so over the phone, mail or online with a PIN.  There may be a $10 fee for the unfreeze.  So this means a little planning on your part if you need to buy a new car or house, rent an apartment, or apply for some jobs (ask about this, do not give up your social security number until they are serious about you).

It may seem inconvenient to have to unfreeze your credit, but really, do you need to say yes to some extra discount at a department store if you sign up for a credit card?  The peace of mind that you have closed a major door to identity theft is reward in itself.

1. Learn more - click on the links below.  This must be done at all 3 agencies.

2. Make a decision to move from fear of other's mishandling of your information to taking control.

3. Move on it soon.  Not some day when you get around to it - set a date to complete this.

4. Don't do it online if you think your computer has a virus.

5. Store the PIN's somewhere secure. In your wallet or purse is a bad idea. Have a spare copy with someone you trust. house in an envelope, etc.

Transunion

Experian 

Equifax

Note - the links may shift around, so it may require a bit of navigating.