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Lesley Mitchell
Lesley Mitchell has been a business reporter at The Tribune since 1997, covering real estate, the retail industry, personal finance and economic development. A graduate of Utah State University's MBA program, Lesley, and her family, are dedicated to finding creative ways to save money, avoid debt and still have fun.

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Protect yourself from ID theft

On March 30, hackers cracked the password on a server at the Utah Department of Technology Services, compromising the private information of as many as 780,000 Utahn residents. Whether you're one of the victims or just concerned about safeguarding your private information, you may want to consider a credit "freeze."

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It's one of the best ways to thwart identity thieves. When you freeze, or lock, your credit file, you are making it extremely difficult for crooks to apply for new credit accounts using your information. They simply can’t access your file. In Utah, you’ll have to pay $10 to each credit-reporting bureau each time you freeze or lock your credit file. You can do this online.

Once your file is locked, you’ll be assigned a PIN number that you can use to temporarily unlock your file while applying for a loan, credit card, cell phone contract or new utility account. Each time you temporarily unlock your file for a day or two, you’ll have to pay $10 to each bureau.

It’s not cheap and it’s definitely a hassle to lock and unlock your credit file. But it remains one of the only truly effective tools consumers have to protect their credit histories.

For information about freezing your credit file with Experian, go to experian.com/freeze/center.html. For Equifax, go to Equifax.com and type "freeze" into the search field. You can also do the same at TransUnion.com.

Credit freezes aren't available to children, however. To help prevent identity thieves from using personal information of Utah children to obtain credit, the Utah Attorney General's Office has created the Child Identity Protection program. Parents may sign their children up for the program, which is designed to make it very difficult for crooks to use the personal information of anyone under the age of 17. Go HERE for more information about the program.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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