[This originally ran last Nov. 12.]
Clark Howard’s syndicated radio show is a snooze, but his website — http://www.clarkhoward.com — is a gem. It’s an outstanding collection of consumer stuff, including tips on fighting identity theft.
Every few days a new story comes along. One of the latest is from Britain, where high-end retailer Marks & Spencer got caught accidentally exposing customer data to other customers. In other words, they screwed up and hacked themselves. Word swept across Facebook, and the TV networks were on it. One shopper told ITV News: “I have just found the name, address, e-mail address, date of birth and mobile and land-line numbers of a lady I have never met. This is appalling.”
M&S acknowledged “technical difficulties” and promised to fix them.
Clark’s #1 tip for fighting identity theft is to freeze your credit report. The three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – will work with you. Even if the bad guys get personal information through a data hacker or from that pleasant woman in the doctor’s office, a frozen credit report cuts off the low-hanging fruit.
Of course, while your credit report is frozen, you won’t be able to apply for a mortgage or a car loan or a credit card, either. That is handled with a 24- or 36-hour “thaw,” triggered by PIN number. Then the information is automatically frozen again.
So thank you, Clark, and accept this bouquet: You’ll never be able to out-bore Dave Ramsey, the human equivalent of Ambien.