July means it's time to freeze — for free
Correction: A previous version of this newsletter had the incorrect phone number for TransUnion. The correct number is 888-909-8872
Des Moines — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller encourages consumers to use the new security freeze law to restrict access to their credit reports to prevent identity theft.
The new and updated credit freeze law, which was proposed by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and state lawmakers, benefits consumers in various ways. Consumers can place, remove, temporarily suspend or reinstate security freezes free of charge. Previously, Iowans paid some of the highest freeze-related fees in the nation to credit reporting agencies.
In addition, credit reporting agencies must comply with requests to add or remove freezes within three business days after receiving the consumer’s written request or within 15 minutes after the consumer’s request is received through a secure internet connection or telephone during normal business hours.
A credit freeze restricts access to a consumer’s credit report. The freeze makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts under a consumer’s name.
Credit reports contain information about your identity, detailed credit history, court judgments, and more. Your credit report can affect your ability to get a credit card or loan, how much interest you pay, your insurance rates, and even where you can live and work. Reviewing your credit report can be a good way to detect if you have been a victim of identity theft.
Data breaches and identity thefts are at record highs. According to Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 1,579 data breaches occurred in 2017, exposing nearly 179 million records. In 2017, these breaches exposed nearly 14.2 million credit card numbers and 158 million Social Security numbers.
How to freeze your reports
If you would like to place a security freeze on your credit reports you must request a freeze from each of the three consumer reporting agencies with the indicated information. For one individual, three requests must be made. For spouses, six requests must be made. Parents may also want to consider placing freezes on behalf of their minor children.
Write to the addresses listed below, call using the automated system, or log online and provide the following documentation:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
- Include name, current and former addresses for the last two years, Social Security number, and date of birth.
- Copy of a utility bill, insurance or bank statement, etc., showing your name and current mailing address
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
- Include name, current and former addresses for the last two years, Social Security number, and date of birth. Enclose a copy of a government identification card, such as a driver’s license, state ID card or military ID card.
- Copy of a utility bill, insurance or bank statement, etc., showing your name and current mailing address.
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
- Include name, current and former addresses for the last five years, Social Security number, and date of birth.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if I think I’m an identity theft victim?
You should first file a police report with your local law enforcement and obtain a copy of the report. Then, place a security freeze on each of your credit reports (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can place a temporary (90-day) or permanent (seven-year) fraud victim alert on your credit report. After reporting and placing a freeze, order a free copy of your credit reports from each agency. You are entitled to one free credit report per agency every 12 months. After receiving your reports, read and review them carefully. Look for unfamiliar credit card accounts or other suspicious activity such as incorrect addresses or delinquent payments. You can send a dispute letter to each credit agency and creditor where fraudulent accounts have been opened. Request that all fraudulent account information be permanently removed from your report and request notification to those who have received your credit report in the last six months.
What is a security freeze?
A security freeze tells the consumer reporting agencies not to give access to your consumer reporting file or your credit score unless you have provided authorization. Placing a freeze can prevent criminals from using your credit record to open new accounts. If your credit reports are frozen, even someone with your name, date of birth, and Social Security number will be prevented from opening new accounts in your name.
How long will the security freeze remain on my credit report?
A security freeze will remain on your credit report until you request its removal.
Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?
Yes, but you must lift the freeze to obtain a new credit card or loan. You can lift it for a period of time, or you can lift it for a specific creditor, or you can lift it permanently. There is no cost for lifting the freeze.
What will a creditor who requests my file see if it is frozen?
A creditor will see a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen. Creditors will not be able to get your credit score.
Will a freeze lower my credit score?
Can an employer do a background check on me if I have a freeze on my credit file?
No. You would have to lift the freeze to allow a background check or to apply for insurance, just as you would to apply for credit.
Can I order my own credit report if my file is frozen?
Yes. To obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months, call toll-free 877-322-8228, or order online at www.AnnualCreditReport.com, or write to P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. A free report does not contain your credit score.
Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
Yes. Your report may still be released to your existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their behalf. Government agencies may also have access for collecting child support payments and taxes, or in the course of a legal proceeding.
Do I have to freeze my file with all three credit reporting agencies?
Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit reporting agencies. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you need a security freeze with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Do I have to lift the security freeze at all three credit reporting agencies?
No. You can ask the potential creditor which credit reporting agency it is going to use. Then place a global lift (with a start and end date) or a third-party lift with that credit reporting agency.
Does my partner’s credit file have to be frozen, too?
Yes. Everyone has their own, which means a couple would need to place six security freezes.
Does a security freeze guarantee that I will not be a victim of identity theft?
No. A security freeze will not be able to stop fraudulent activity that has already taken place before the freeze. It will also not prevent all types of identity theft such as criminal, driver’s license, government benefit, insurance, medical, and Social Security. While it may not help with these other types of theft, it can help you with the most common, which involves opening new lines of credit.