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Reducing your vulnerability to ID theft

Recent security breaches make those whose information has been lost or stolen susceptible to fraud indefinitely. There's no way to ensure that you won't be targeted for identity theft, but you can take several measures to reduce your vulnerability:

_Call the fraud unit of one of the three U.S. crediting companies—Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and Transunion (800-680-7289)—to place an initial 90-day fraud alert on your account. This alert, which can be extended to seven years, requires financial companies to call you before giving you credit.

_Place a security freeze on your account that prevents anyone, even legitimate companies, from looking at your credit file. This can be done only in California, Texas, Louisiana and Vermont.

_Monitor your credit reports regularly to ensure that fraudulent purchases aren't being made in your name. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three crediting agencies to give Americans one free credit report each year.

Source: The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, privacyrights.org

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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