By Rosemary Heins, University of Minnesota Extension
ST. PAUL, Minn. (5/12/2008) — Recent federal laws and Minnesota state laws help citizens protect themselves from new account fraud by allowing ‘freezing.’ The laws empower any consumer to freeze their credit report by contacting any of the three major credit reporting agencies and requesting a credit report freeze. This action will deny potential thieves access to the credit history and prevent them from opening new credit cards or loans in the consumer’s name.
Victims of identity theft can have their reports frozen without a charge, but they will need the theft documented by a copy of the police report or case number. People who have not been victims of identity theft can choose to freeze their report for a $5 fee to each of the credit reporting agencies. When an agency receives a freeze request, it must place the freeze within 3 days of the request. In addition, the agency must provide a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) to the consumer within ten days.
The PIN can then be used by the consumer to temporarily lift or ‘thaw’ their report for a specific period of time or for a specific creditor. For example, you are car shopping and want to allow a dealership, credit union or bank to look at your credit history to obtain a car loan. Or you may request your information be openly available for a specific period of time, like 30 days, in order to shop at several locations. After this period is over the report will automatically refreeze.
The thawing process is free to those who have been identity theft victims. Those who have not been victims will be charged the $5 fee for thawing.