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6 Ways to Protect Against Identity Theft

NEW YORK ( -- Data breaches and identity theft are becoming more common and widespread.

This month 111 suspects were indicted in New York's Operation Swiper to take down a $13 million identity theft ring -- possibly the biggest in U.S. history -- that used a network of skimmers posing as restaurant workers, bank tellers and other store employees to steal customers' IDs. The thieves had ties to global crime rings and created forged credit cards with stolen account numbers, using them for vacations and shopping sprees to buy high-end luxury items to be resold on the internet. Meanwhile, the victims are still trying to repair their ruined credit ratings.
A $13 million identity theft ring, possibly the biggest in U.S. history, used a network of skimmers posing as waiters and waitresses and other store employees to steal customers' IDs, shop with them and resell the goods.

There is no way to predict where and when this could happen next, but you can take steps to protect yourself to avoid many of the consequences of identity theft.

Here are some of the protections available:

Credit freeze
A credit freeze is the best way to protect your credit score and to prevent someone else from opening an account in your name. Only you can place a credit freeze or remove it. Before an event occurs, you can put a freeze on your account at the three major credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax (EFX - Get Report) and Experian.

The credit freeze is free for identity theft victims and, in some states, senior citizens. The cost for non-victims varies by state, ranging from $3 to $20. The same fee applies for removal.

The only downside is that a freeze may interfere with applying for anything that requires a credit report, such as an application for a credit card, mortgage, insurance, apartment rental or job. If your account is frozen, only companies you already do business with can look at your report; you will have to temporarily remove the freeze to apply for new credit.

A credit freeze is a good protection for older adults against scams and friends or relatives who could open an account in their name.
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