Professional hacker says guarding credit is easy

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The recent Yahoo and Equifax data breaches are putting Americans' private information, like their Social Security numbers, in the hands of hackers -- which could lead to identity theft and fraudulent loans.

San Diego cyber security expert Steven Andres said he doesn't even care if they got his private information. In fact, he said he didn't even check Equifax to see if he was part of the breach.

Andres, a professional hacker, told 10News, "It does not matter. I have a credit freeze. I sleep really well at night because none of that matters."

Anyone in California can freeze their credit reports.

A credit freeze essentially keeps anyone -- a car dealer, mortgage broker, leasing agent -- from seeing your credit report so they won't lend to you.

It can make getting a new car a bit inconvenient because you have to unfreeze your credit report, but Andres said it takes about an hour.

A freeze can also stop a fraudster with your Social Security number in their tracks.

"With a credit freeze, the creditor won't see anything and they'll definitely raise some eyebrows and say, 'We need to talk,'" said Andres, who teaches homeland security at San Diego State University.

It does cost money to freeze your credit, however. You have to contact the three major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Transunion and Experian -- and pay each of them a $10 fee.

However, Equifax has temporarily waived their fee.

Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, noted that there are some services, like Credit Karma and Sesame, which provide credit monitoring for free. The monitoring doesn't freeze your credit but alerts you of activity.

Stephens noted that he does not pay for credit monitoring services, including what's called Identity Theft Insurance, which covers the out-of-pocket costs incurred in restoring identity, such as sending certified letters.

Stephens said many renters and homeowners insurance policies come with that benefit.

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