New Security Freeze Law Helps Prevent Against Identity
BALTIMORE, MD (January
4, 2008) - Maryland consumers now have another line of defense
in the fight against identity theft. Beginning
January 1st, consumers in Maryland are now able to “freeze” their
credit reports, effectively stopping identity thieves before they
can cause any damage. The Maryland Security Freeze Law allows consumers
to freeze their credit reports with the three major credit reporting
agencies: Transunion, Experian and Equifax.
“Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S.
and unfortunately, Marylanders are not immune,” said Attorney
General Douglas F. Gansler. “The ability to freeze their
credit report gives consumers in Maryland a new weapon to protect
themselves from identity thieves.”
Identity theft occurs
frequently through fraudulent credit accounts, or even utility
and phone accounts. Identity thieves are able to
steal personal information such as name, address, social security
number, and use that information to open accounts in a consumer’s
name. Often, identity thieves will use their own address and consumers
are unaware of the crime until they check their credit report.
When a consumer places a credit freeze, the credit report is blocked.
Most retailers and financial institutions will not grant credit
without first checking the credit report; once it is frozen, a
thief will be unable to open new lines of credit in the consumer’s
name. A frozen credit report can only be accessed by the consumer
or businesses with which the consumer has an existing relationship.
Forty states and the
District of Columbia have laws allowing consumers to place a
freeze on their credit reports. Recently,
the three Credit Reporting Agencies opened the service to all consumers
in the U.S. The Maryland Freeze Law allows victims of identity
theft to “freeze” their credit reports for free, and
prohibits the Credit Reporting Agencies from charging more than
$5 for all other consumers in the state. The new law also requires
that the Credit Reporting Agencies allow consumers to place and
lift the freeze over the Internet, once they have a secure web
Consumers may take advantage of this law by sending a certified
letter to each of the three credit reporting agencies, along with
a $5 fee for each agency. Once the freeze is in place, the consumer
will receive a Personal Identification Number (PIN) from the credit
agencies. Using the
PIN, the consumer may be able to temporarily lift or completely
remove the freeze. The agencies may charge an
additional $5 fee for removing or temporarily “thawing” the
freeze. A thaw may take up to three days until effective.
Previous victims of identity theft who have filed a police report
may receive this service for free. They simply need to send a letter
to each of the three agencies explaining they have been victims,
as well as a copy of the police report.
Send your freeze requests via certified mail to:
- Equifax Security
P.O, Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
- Experian Security
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
For more information
on security freezes, please visit the Attorney General’s
website, www.oag.state.md.us or
reach the Attorney General’s Identity
Theft Unit by phone at 410-576-6574 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.