WICHITA, Kan. Identity theft is the fastest growing white collar crime in America, yet most of us are not as protected as we could be, exposing our personal information and credit to criminals.
A new national law that recently went into effect makes it easier and cheaper for you to keep thieves away.
In September 2017 Equifax, one of the three major companies that track all of our finances, announced hackers stole the personal information of 143 million Americans. For perspective, that's more than half of American adults.
You may be one of them, I know I was.
In the past 12 years 16 companies
had a major data breach. Each time your personal information is stolen, then saved on the black market, it could one day be used to steal your identity and make your life a financial nightmare.
For years consumer protection agencies like Better Business Bureau have said the best way to protect our identities and avoid financial headaches is by freezing our credit, but few of us actually took advantage.
"I had heard about it, and kind of looked into it and saw some of the prices and our credit is really good, but to us at that point it wasn't worth paying for I guess," said Brandon Salisbury.
That mindset Salisbury had was pretty common. That's because not everyone knows what a credit freeze is or what it does.
Those who did know, said it cost too much money and was too much of a headache.
That's where Tonia Freeman found herself.
"I guess I didn't feel like I, out of everyone out there, was at any more risk than anyone else," said Freeman.
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze aims to block thieves from opening new credit accounts in your name. The catch is that the freeze applies to legit inquires, too.
It's not a great idea if you're shopping for a home loan, auto loan or credit card.
Before September it cost about $30 to freeze your credit and another $30 to unfreeze it.
Now it's free.Yet few of us are doing it.
TransUnion, one of the three main credit agencies tells me fewer than two percent of Americans are freezing their credit.
Salisbury says his credit is only frozen with Experian.
"When they offered it for free, it kind of made sense to add that barrier to someone stealing our information," said Salisbury.
But he's still exposed because his credit is not frozen with Equifax and TransUnion.
"What would it take for you to lock it on all three?">
"It is a little inconvenient, but probably the price is the biggest factor. What if I told you it's now free? Then it would make sense to go ahead and do it," said Salisbury.
So that's what we did. We signed him up for Equifax.
"Three easy steps to get started," said Salisbury as he scrolled through the website.
After filling-in his name, date of birth, social security number, email and current address and verifying some past credit history, he was all set.
"So that was from not having an account to freezing it was under five minutes," said Salisbury.
A free, quick way to protect yourself and your money.
"I don't worry about it as much. I think that it's possible it could still happen I suppose, but I think the odds are slim," said Freeman.
Shane Konicki agreed to go through the credit freeze process with Experian. This video is a step by step tutorial showing Shane freeze his credit (with obvious protections to his information.
From beginning to end it only took him a few minutes.
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT
Here are links to freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus. In order to do this, you'll want to have your social security number, current contact information, and know some of your credit history.
FREEZE YOUR CHILD'S CREDIT
If you have children under 18 years old, you can freeze their credit as well. Each credit reporting agency handles it different. Here's a link to do that with each agency.
FREE CREDIT REPORT
Several places to get your credit report, but the only authorized website for free credit reports is annualcreditreport.com
. You're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.
Shane Konicki tries to freeze his credit
I did a step by step tutorial with Shane to walk through the process of freezing his credit. I did mine and my wife's in about two minutes, but with Shane we had a hiccup.
Click here to watch what happened.