Thursday, February 9, 2006
HELENA, MT – Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is supporting efforts by Attorney General Mike McGrath and AARP Montana to give Montanans the right to put a security freeze on their credit files to protect themselves from identity theft. McGrath has announced his intention to push state lawmakers to enact security freeze legislation. The legislature’s Interim Committee on Economic Affairs has scheduled a hearing on February 10 on the security freeze and other aspects of identity theft prevention.
“With a few simple pieces of information, a crook can open new accounts in your name and just start charging,” said Gail Hillebrand, Senior Attorney for Consumers Union’s Financial Privacy Now campaign. “Identity theft victims are often left with a damaged credit record and a big mess to clean up in order to prove their innocence.”
A security freeze enables the consumer to prevent access to the consumer’s own credit reporting file unless the consumer chooses to allow it. There are certain exceptions, such as for existing creditors. The freeze gives the consumer complete control over who has access to the information needed to process an application to open a new account for credit or services in the name of the consumer. Stopping access to the consumer credit file stops thieves from opening new accounts. When the consumer is applying for credit, the consumer can order that the freeze be lifted temporarily so the application can be processed.
“A security freeze is the strongest form of identity theft prevention for consumers.” said Hillebrand. “Only the security freeze gives the consumer the tool to put a stop to the opening of a fraudulent new account.”
Twelve states have adopted security freeze laws and other states are expected to join them. Consumers in California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Nevada currently are able to put a security freeze on their credit files. Consumers in Colorado will get the option to put a security freeze on their credit files when that state’s law goes into effect on July 1. Identity theft victims have the right to put a security freeze on their credit files in Illinois, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. For more information on these state security freeze laws, see: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns//learn_more/002355indiv.html. Security freeze bills have been introduced in at least a dozen more states for 2006.