The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs and Federal Trade Commission answered common questions about ID theft Thursday for thousands of members of the SC chapter of AARP, using a telephone conference call that phoned 60,000 members at the same time.
About 13,500 members were home and stayed on the line to learn more about how to protect their personal information.
One question was whether people who signed up for free credit monitoring last year through Experian need to now sign up with CSID. The state paid for a free year of credit monitoring after a hacker stole the personal information of 3.8 million taxpayers. That free year is running out, and the state has a new contract with CSID to provide another year of free ID theft protection.
The answer to the question is yes, you do have to sign up again with CSID, since the two are separate companies and they don’t share your personal information. To sign up with CSID, you can click here or call toll-free 1-855-880-2743.
Carri Grube Lybarker, administrator at the state Department of Consumer Affairs, says another free service you can use to protect yourself is putting a security freeze on your credit.
"The way that we usually explain the security freeze is that it puts your credit report on lockdown, and makes it to where if anybody applies for a product or a service in your name, where a credit report has to be viewed to get that product or service, the business can't do so without your express permission. You would have to supply a PIN number for them to get access to your credit report,” she says.
In order to put a freeze on your credit, you have to contact all three credit reporting agencies.
Once the credit freeze is in place, a business won’t be able to check your credit report without your permission. If you’re planning to buy something that will require a credit check, anything from a cell phone to a car or home, you can “thaw” your credit for either a specific business or a specific amount of time.
Another question an AARP caller had was whether it’s possible to put a freeze on a child’s credit, since the child doesn’t have a credit report yet. Lybarker said the first step is to check with the credit agencies to make sure the child doesn’t have a credit report. If it’s a teenager with a cell phone, for example, he may actually have a credit report. If so, you can put a freeze on it. If not, the CSID service will monitor children’s Social Security numbers for any fraud.
If you do become a victim of identity theft, the state Dept. of Consumer Affairs has a new ID Theft Unit that can help you. You can contact them here.
You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission here.
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