Thursday, August 28, 2008
Some States Making it Easier for Consumers to Protect Credit Files From Identity Thieves
More Convenient to Use in Some States Starting September 1
It’s about to get easier for consumers living in some states to use a security freeze to prevent identity thieves from damaging their credit records. By September 1, laws in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C. will require credit bureaus to make the security freeze more convenient to use.
“A security freeze is the best way for consumers to protect their credit records from identity thieves,” said Gail Hillebrand. “We expect more consumers will take advantage of security freeze protection as it becomes easier to use.”
Every day, some 22,000 Americans have their identities stolen. In about a third of those cases, crooks use the information to open new accounts in their victim’s name. Armed with just a victim’s name and Social Security number, a thief can open fraudulent accounts and start charging away, leaving behind a damaged credit record, which may take years to repair.
A security freeze gives consumers the ability to freeze or lock access to their credit files against anyone trying to open up a new account for credit or services in their name. When a security freeze is in place at all three major credit bureaus, an identity thief cannot open a new account because the potential creditor or seller of services will not be able to check the credit file. When the rightful consumer is applying for credit, he or she can lift the freeze temporarily using a PIN so legitimate applications for credit or services can be processed.
Most states give the credit bureaus up to three business day to lift or remove the freeze after a consumer makes that request. By September 1, consumers in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C., will be able to lift or remove the security freeze within 15 minutes of making an electronic request to the credit bureaus using a PIN. This same 15 minute lift provision goes into effect in January 2009 in Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, and Tennessee.
“Consumers across the country deserve the same easy ability to use the freeze to keep crooks out of their credit files and to lift it quickly when they’re applying for new credit,” said Gail Hillebrand, Senior Attorney with Consumers Union. “The credit bureaus should make it just as convenient for consumers in all 50 states to use the security freeze to protect themselves from identity thieves.”
The rules for using a security freeze vary across the country because of different state laws governing their use. To learn more about the security freeze in all 50 states, see: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns//learn_more/003484indiv.html
Gail Hillebrand or Michael McCauley: 415-431-6747