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Financial experts warn consumers to guard against credit fraud.

The recent theft of personal information from thousands of Ohio State employees, including some who work at WOSU, once again underscored the vulnerabilities of electronic data storage. The University promised the victims credit fraud monitoring and protection for one year. But the incident and many others like it left many people who electronically bank, buy or pay bills wondering about their financial security. WOSU's Marilyn Smith reports.

Stealing is not new. Throughout history rogues and scoundrels of all stripes have been willing to separate a man from his money, but the internet has opened new avenues of chicanery.

Nadine Ballard is the head of the consumer protection division in the State Attorney General's office. She believes reputable firms can protect Internet commerce and electronic storage. But she warns consumers to be mindful of firms with whom they do business. State Treasurer Richard Cordray believes it's not if but when everyone's personal fiancial information will be compromised. Cordray is working on legislation to create a bill barring theives from opening accounts in the name of someone else.

Kathy Virgallito of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, encourages consumers to request a free copy of their credit report each year and check it for accuracy. Beginning in 2004, the federal government determined the nation's three credit bureaus, Equi-Fax, Experian, and Trans Union must provide a free, annual credit report for all consumers who request one. Virgallito says an annual credit review can reveal mistakes as well as possible fraud. She says it's important to check your credit report each year to guard against errrors or fraud.

Virgallito says while the credit report is free, consumers will have to pay a few dollars to get their credit score. The highest score is eight-hundred-fifty. Credit problems can cause the score to drop. She says the most common are late payments and carrying a debt load month to month that is more than thirty percent of your credit limit.

Virgallito advises consumers to hold on to long standing accounts because they show a history of paying your bills. She says if you do cancel an account make sure it's noted that the closure was requested by the cardholder not the merchant or bank. She says if you find an error, dispute it. Consumers who need help deciphering a credit report can get free help consumer credit counseling service. Marilyn Smith WOSU News.