LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Metro police deal with 400 to 500 new financial crimes each month. The stories are often heartbreaking as people fall for tricks that identity thieves and scam artists constantly float through email and unsolicited phone calls.

But there are things you can do to prevent identity theft.

To prevent thieves from opening accounts in your name, you can freeze your credit. As long as you’re not in the middle of buying a house or a car, it’s a good idea to take the step, according to Sgt. Beth Schmidt of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Financial Crimes Section.

If you need to unfreeze it to make a major purchase, you can do that and then freeze it again when you’re done.

It won’t stop all the ways identity thieves can disrupt your life, but it can prevent them from destroying your credit by opening new accounts and going on a shopping spree.

You can do it for free under federal law, and you can also get a free annual credit report. Use these websites to do it:

Annual Credit Report
Equifax – credit freeze
TransUnion – credit freeze
Experian – credit freeze