Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Below are some articles copied from the internet, beginning around 2003. By now there may be more current informaiton, but the basic concepts should still be vaild and relevant. If, after looking at this information, you decide you want to pursue the protections described, you should search the internet for more up to date references.

Identity Theft

Tips for Fighting Identity Theft

Sunday March 30, 8:02 am ET By Andrea Coombes

http://biz.yahoo.com/cbsm/080330/798332fb426444f99f8f5dbd290b80cf.html?.v=1&.pf=banking-budgeting

Plenty of products promise to help consumers avoid identity theft, but none of them is foolproof.

If a product claims to prevent identity theft, that should raise red flags for consumers, said Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego. "You can't protect a person from identity theft. It's impossible. All we can do is minimize our risk."

And, while these products can reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim, many employ methods that consumers can use on their own, for free.

Fraud alerts

Many products offer to place fraud alerts on consumers' credit reports, so when a retailer or creditor checks your report in response to a request for a new credit card or financing for that plasma television, the fraud alert tells them to double-check that the person seeking credit is you. Ideally, the creditor delays extending credit until reaching you. But alerts "are not the silver bullet that people are looking for," said Guillaume Deybach, chief executive of Europ Assistance USA, a Washington-based company offering travel aid and identity-theft assistance. Drawbacks: Alerts focus only on thieves opening new credit lines in your name, not the use of existing accounts. Also, some retailers don't check credit reports before extending credit and those that do don't always try to reach you -- they may just ask the thief some easy-to-answer questions. Still, alerts increase the chance you'll be contacted if someone applies for credit in your name. Consumers can call or go online to each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert for free. "It's easier to do it by phone," said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "It's faster, and you're not going to get as much of a sales pitch." Generally, fraud alerts expire after 90 days. If you don't want to bother remembering to renew alerts, several companies, such as LifeLock, sell the service of placing alerts for you, for about $10 a month, or bundled into pricier packages that include other services.

Credit freeze

Alternatively, you can place a credit freeze to lock up your report at each of the three bureaus, preventing new credit being extended in your name. This won't affect your access to current credit lines, but will delay your access to new credit (it takes about three days to lift a freeze). Freezes aren't advised for people in precarious financial positions who might need to borrow money in a hurry. But for consumers prepared for unexpected financial emergencies, a credit freeze is a powerful way to stop thieves. Drawback: Freezes don't stop thieves tapping existing credit or bank accounts, nor do they address other identity theft, such as when a thief provides your name as his identity when pulled over for a traffic violation. Consumers can freeze their reports by calling each of the three agencies. It generally costs $10 to place a freeze ($30 to freeze all three major reports) and $10 to lift each freeze (these costs are sometimes waived.) For more details, visit FinancialPrivacyNow.org. Or, you can pay for a product that includes a credit freeze, such as offered by TrustedID and others.

Credit monitoring

Monitoring products alert consumers when changes appear on their credit reports. Drawback: There's often a significant time lag between credit activity and its appearance on your report. Still, monitoring may help you realize sooner that you've become an identity theft victim, enabling you to start resolving the issue before more damage ensues. Consumers can do their own form of credit monitoring by requesting a free annual credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus on a rotating basis (one request every four months). Go to AnnualCreditReport.com. Or, you can pay a company for the convenience of having alerts emailed to you. Make sure the company monitors all three bureaus.

Data-sweep services

Companies will scour the Internet for your personal information, alerting you to potential misuses of your identity. These services cover an array of online information, including real estate and criminal records. One example is MyPublicInfo's "public information profile," about $80 for one report and six months of access to their member resources. Drawback: They don't prevent identity theft; they alert you when it might be happening. "The fraud alert, the credit freeze, the credit monitoring, some of the tips to protect your information and identity, none of them are silver bullets, but all of them contribute to prevent it from happening and all increase your awareness when something is odd" with your accounts, Deybach said. "It's really about raising the awareness of individuals ... so whenever something happens they can take care of the issue and act."

Insurance and victim resolution services

Identity-theft insurance helps cover the costs associated with the crime. Your homeowners or renters insurance, or your bank account, may include such insurance already, so check before purchasing. Consumer advocates say the value of such insurance is debatable, since financial losses are often not extensive and credit-card companies generally cover consumers' losses. Still, insurance could be useful if the policy covers debit-card losses and lost wages due to your time spent resolving the crime. Visit PrivacyRights.org for more on the risks of debit cards. As for victim resolution services, some nonprofit and state agencies will help for free, though the services companies sell may offer valuable convenience. Visit IDTheftCenter.org for more information.

Protect yourself

Keep a close eye on your financial accounts, whether online or by monitoring paper statements, to be alerted quickly should you become an identity theft victim. If you prefer plastic to cash -- and you've got discipline -- use a credit card instead of a debit card for purchases. Credit cards come with stronger consumer protections. To avoid identity thieves online, keep your computer protections up-to-date, including antispyware and antivirus programs, and don't click on links in email messages. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks unless your computer encrypts transmissions. Don't save passwords on your computer, and turn on password-protection features for your portable devices. Lock up sensitive financial information stored at home. Talk to your kids about refraining from posting an abundance of private information on social-networking sites, and do the same yourself. Avoid leaving sensitive data in your car, where it could easily be stolen. Use post office mailboxes to send mail, and shred documents before tossing.

From: Yahoo! Personal Finance http://biz.yahoo.com/cbsm/080330/798332fb426444f99f8f5dbd290b80cf.html?.v=1&.pf=banking-budgeting

FTC: 8.3 million U.S. victims of ID theft in 2005

http://news.yahoo.com/s/infoworld/20071127/tc_infoworld/93663

San Francisco - About 8.3 million U.S. residents -- nearly 4 percent of the nation's population -- were victims of identity theft in 2005, but few victims identified computer-related crime as the culprit, according to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission report released Tuesday.
ADVERTISEMENT

The FTC data, obtained through telephone surveys, found that 56 percent of ID theft victims didn't know how their personal information was stolen. Only 1 percent of victims identified computer hacking as the cause of the ID theft, and another 1 percent identified a computer-based phishing attack, where ID thieves typically send out bogus e-mails that look like they come from banks or retailers and ask for log-in information.

Sixteen percent of the victims knew the ID thieves personally, and 7 percent said the data loss came from a purchase or financial transaction, including online, in-person, and mail purchases. Five percent of victims said their data was taken from a company that held their personal information, according to the FTC report.

"Whether you're from Malibu or Manhattan, Tacoma or Tallahassee, no one is immune to identity theft," Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "The important thing is that people learn how to deter identity thieves, detect suspicious activity on their financial records, and defend against the crime, should it happen."

The FTC, in a similar study, estimated there were about 10 million ID theft victims in the U.S. in 2003. The average amount of money obtained per theft fell as well, from $4,789 in 2003 to $1,882 in 2005.

The costs of ID theft varied significantly in the new survey. In more than half of the incidents, the thieves got away with $500 or less, but in 10 percent of the cases, the thieves netted $6,000 or more, the FTC said.

In more than half of the cases, the victims incurred no out-of-pocket expenses, but in 10 percent of cases, the victims reported out-of-pocket costs of $1,200 or more.

The survey also asked victims to estimate the time they spent clearing up the problems caused by the ID theft. The average was four hours, but about 10 percent of victims spent 55 hours or more, and about 5 percent spent at least 130 hours.

Thirty-seven percent of victims reported experiencing problems beyond the time they spent recovering out-of-pocket expenses. The problems included being harassed by debt collectors, being denied new credit, being unable to use existing credit cards, being unable to get loans, having their utilities cut off, being subject to a criminal investigation or civil suit, being arrested, and having difficulties obtaining or accessing bank accounts.

Seventeen percent of all ID theft victims said that their personal information was used to open at least one new account. The two most common types of accounts thieves opened were telephone service accounts, reported by 8 percent of victims; and credit card accounts, reported by 7 percent of victims.

While 85 percent of the victims reported that one or more of their existing accounts had been misused, 12 percent reported that their information was misused in other ways. Five percent said that their personal information was given to the police when the thief was stopped or charged with a crime. Three percent of victims said that the thief had obtained medical treatment, services, or supplies.

The FTC has a publication, "To Buy or Not To Buy: Identity Theft Spawns New Products and Services To Help Minimize Risks," to help consumers evaluate whether they should initiate fraud alerts or credit freezes or buy identity theft products and services such as credit monitoring.

The study was conducted through interviews using a random-digit-dialing sampling methodology. More than 4,900 telephone interviews were conducted between March 27 and June 11, 2006.


Security Freeze

More People Are Freezing Credit Reports

Fearful of ID Theft, Consumers Block Access To Their Records; A Quick Thaw, Made Easier
By JANE J. KIM - Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2007
http://money.aol.com/wsj/credit/canvas3/_a/more-people-are-freezing-credit-reports/20071018085609990001

Spooked by the possibility of identity theft, increasing numbers of people are taking a radical approach to thwart criminals: They are putting their credit reports on permanent freeze.

A frozen credit report prevents almost anyone from using your name to take out a loan or sign up for credit, such as a credit card, a bank account or cellphone service. That is because, with a freeze in place, potential new creditors can't get access to your credit record kept on file by the three main credit-reporting bureaus without your explicit permission.

For the remainder of this article, click the link above under the credit line, or download a PDF file of it.


AVAILABLE IN CALIF. AND TEXAS FOR NOW [Now (2007) available in all states - see below]

By Brian Bergstein

Associated Press

Little by little, a weapon against identity theft is gaining currency -- but few people know about it.

It's called the security freeze, and it lets individuals block access to their credit reports until they personally unlock the files by contacting the credit bureaus and providing a PIN code.

The process is a bit of a hassle, and the credit-reporting industry believes it complicates things unnecessarily.

But it appears to be one of the few ways to virtually guarantee that a fraudster cannot open an account in your name.

The freeze became an option in California and Texas last year, and Louisiana and Vermont will allow it next July. However, the Texas and Vermont laws apply only to people who already have been victimized by identity theft.

Only 2,000 Californians and 150 Texans have taken advantage of the freeze, according to Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus.

But identity theft watchdogs say usage is low simply because the credit bureaus don't publicize the option. With identity theft apparently growing, the advocates hope the freeze gains national momentum. Congress resisted calls for a freeze rule during debate over a major credit law last year.

``It's the best protection we have,'' said Linda Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

The Internet and consumer databases have made it easier than ever to find someone else's Social Security number and apply for accounts in that name. Meanwhile, obtaining credit is a breeze, as zero-percent financing offers crowd our mailboxes and appliance stores make no-money-down come-ons.

People who suspect trouble can place fraud alerts on their credit reports. But identity theft watchdogs say the alerts are often ignored by creditors who are willing, say, to gamble that the potential plasma TV purchaser in front of them is legitimate and write off any losses that might occur if the person turns out to be a con artist.

A 2003 study for the Federal Trade Commission determined that in the previous year, 3.2 million Americans' personal information had been stolen by thieves who opened new accounts or loans. On average, victims lost $1,180 and spent 60 hours resolving the problem.

In California, the initial freeze is $10. Unfreezing it temporarily is up to $12. But the cost of each step is multiplied by three because it must be performed with all three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

With the freeze on, if someone applies for credit in your name, the creditor will be unable to check your history, and the applicant will get rejected.

The industry has fought the freeze, contending that fraud alerts and new protections in last year's federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act offer defense against identity theft.

In testimony to a Louisiana legislative committee in May, Eric Ellman, a lobbyist for the Consumer Data Industry Association, called freezes ``the most dramatic and draconian alteration'' to hit the credit reporting system.

``It's using a machine gun to get at a fly,'' he said.

That argument angers victims like Thomas, who says the best that the existing system offers is detection of the crime, while a freeze brings invaluable protection.

``The only thing you have in this world,'' she said, ``is your name.''

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED

For more information about California laws, see www.privacy.ca.gov/financial/cfreezeon.htm.


How to Put a Security Freeze on Your Credit File

To freeze your credit file, you have to write to all three of the credit bureaus. You must give them information to identify yourself.

Equifax

A security freeze is free for identity theft victims with a police report of identity theft.
The charge for placing the freeze is $10. The freeze stays on until you end it. There is no charge for ending the freeze.
The fee for lifting the freeze temporarily is $10 for a date-range lift and $12 for a lift for a specific creditor.
Must Send by certified mail.
Give your first name, middle initial and last name, with Jr., etc.
Give your home address, your Social Security number and your birth date.
You may pay by check, money order or credit card (Visa, Master Card, American Express or Discover only). If paying by credit card, give name of card, account number and expiration date.

Sample Letter to Equifax (http://www.privacy.ca.gov/financial/cfreezeequifaxltr.htm)

Experian

A security freeze is free for identity theft victims with a police report of identity theft.
The charge for placing the freeze is $10. The freeze stays on until you end it. There is no charge for ending the freeze.
The fee for lifting the freeze temporarily is $10 for a date-range lift and $12 for a lift for a specific creditor.
Must Send by certified mail.
Give your first name, middle initial, last name, with Jr., etc.
Give your current home address and your home addresses for the past five years.
Give your Social Security number, your birth date, and two proofs of residence. A proof of residence may be a copy of your driver's license, a copy of a utility bill, or a copy of a bank statement.
You may pay by check, money order or credit card. If paying by credit card, give name of card, account number and expiration date.

Sample Letter to Experian (http://www.privacy.ca.gov/financial/cfreezeexperianltr.htm)

Trans Union

A security freeze is free for identity theft victims with a police report of identity theft.
The charge for placing the freeze is $10. The freeze stays on until you end it. There is no charge for ending the freeze.
The fee for lifting the freeze temporarily is $10 for a date-range lift and $12 for a lift for a specific creditor.
You may send by regular or certified mail.
Give your first name, middle initial and last name, with Jr., etc.
Give your home address and your Social Security number.
You must pay by credit card. Give the name of the card, account number and expiration date.

Sample Letter to Trans Union (http://www.privacy.ca.gov/financial/cfreezetultr.htm)

Remember to keep a copy of your letters for yourself.

How to get more information on security freezes
You can get current information on security freezes from the credit bureaus. Call them at the numbers listed below.

Equifax 800-685-1111
Experian 888-397-3742 Select the option to hear California Notice of Rights
Trans Union 888-909-8872

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Security Freezes

1. Q:What is the difference between a fraud alert and a security freeze?
A: A fraud alert is a special message on the report that a creditor receives when checking a consumer's credit rating. It tells the creditor that there may be fraud involved in the account. A fraud alert can help protect you against identity theft. A fraud alert can also slow down your ability to get new credit. It should not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other accounts.
∑ Experian: The fraud alert tells creditors to verify the identity of the person applying for credit.
∑ Equifax: The alert tells the creditor to call the consumer at a given phone number before issuing new credit.
∑ Trans Union: The alert may say either to verify identity or to call the consumer at a given number.

A security freeze means that your credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors, insurance companies or employers doing background checks. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer's credit history first.

2. Q: Can I open new credit accounts if my file is frozen?
A: Yes. If you want to open a new credit account or get a new loan, you can lift the freeze on your credit file. You can lift it for a period of time. Or you can lift it for specific creditors. After you send your letter asking for the freeze, each of the credit bureaus will send you a Personal Identification Number (PIN). You will also get instructions on how to lift the freeze. You can lift the freeze by phone, using your PIN. The credit bureaus must lift your freeze within three days.

The fee for lifting the freeze temporarily is $10 for a date-range lift and $12 for a lift for a specific creditor.

3. Q: How long does it take for a security freeze to take effect?
A: Credit bureaus must place the freeze no later than five business days after receiving your written request.

4. Q: How long does it take for a security freeze to be lifted?
A: Credit bureaus must lift a freeze no later than three business days of receiving your request.

5. Q: What will a creditor who requests my file see if it is frozen?
A: A creditor will see a message, or a code, indicating that the file is frozen.

6. Q: Can a creditor get my credit score if my file is frozen?
A: No. A creditor who requests your file from one of the three credit bureaus will only get a message, or a code, indicating that the file is frozen.

7. Q: Can I order my own credit report if the file is frozen?
A: Yes.

8. Q: Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
A: When you have a security freeze on your credit file, certain entities still have access to it. Your report can still be released to your existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their behalf. They can use it to review or collect on your account. Other creditors may also use your information to make offers of credit-unless you opt out of receiving such offers. See below for how to opt out of pre-approved credit offers. Government agencies may have access for collecting child support payments or taxes or for investigating Medi-Cal fraud. Government agencies may also have access in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.

9. Q: Do I have to freeze my credit file with all three credit bureaus?
A: Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit bureaus. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you need to freeze it with Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

10. Q: Will a freeze lower my credit score?
A: No.

11. Q: Can an employer do a background check on me if I have a freeze on my credit file?
A: 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. The process for lifting the freeze is described above.

12. Q: Does freezing my file mean that I won't receive pre-approved credit offers?
A: No. You can stop the pre-approved credit offers by calling 888-5OPTOUT. This will stop most of the offers, the ones that go through the credit bureaus. It's good for two years or you can make it permanent.

13. Q: What law requires security freezes?
A: The law on security freezes is in the Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act link to[http://www.privacy.ca.gov/code/ccra.htm], at California Civil Code Sections 1785.11.2-1785.11.6.

Updated January 22, 2004

Sample letters

 

Date:

Equifax
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348

Dear Equifax:

I would like to place a security freeze on my credit file. My name is

My current address is

 

My former address was

 

My Social Security number is and my date of birth is

Circle one:
I am an identity theft victim and I enclose a copy of my police report or DMV investigative report.

Or:
I will pay the fee of $10 for placing the freeze by

Yours truly,

 

Date:

Experian
701 Experian Parkway
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

Dear Experian:

I would like to place a security freeze on my credit file. My name is

My current address is

Below is a list of my addresses for the past five years:

 

My Social Security number is:

and my date of birth is:

As proof of my address, I am enclosing the following two items:

 

Circle one:
I am an identity theft victim and I enclose a copy of my police report or DMV investigative report.

Or:
I will pay the fee of $10 for placing the freeze by

Yours truly,

 

Date:

Trans Union Security Freeze
P. O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Dear Trans Union:

I would like to place a security freeze on my credit file. My name is

My current address is

My Social Security number is

Circle one:
I am an identity theft victim and I enclose a copy of my police report/DMV investigative report.

Or:
I will pay the fee of $10 for placing the freeze by credit card.
Name of credit card: Account number:
Expiration date:

Yours truly,


Equifax Security Freeze- California SB168

http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_equifax.html
This information is from an Equifax customer service representative:

Learn the basics about SB 168, California's credit freeze (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168.html)

How do I add an Equifax security freeze?
To add an Equifax security freeze, your request must be submitted in writing to Equifax via certified mail.

Equifax
Post Office Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348

In your letter, please include your name, current and former address, social security number, date of birth, and either a credit card number with expiration date, check, or money order to pay for the fee related to this service.You will be sent an information letter that includes a 10 digit personal identification number (PIN) and a telephone number to use to unfreeze your credit.


How much will it cost?
A security freeze is free if you are a victim of identity theft and provide Equifax with a valid police report or Department of Motor Vehicles investigative report.

The fee to add a security freeze is $12.

The fee to temporarily lift a security freeze is $8 to lift it for a specific period of time and $25 to lift it for a specific credit grantor. There is no fee to remove a security freeze.

NOTE: The representative also said that you would NOT be able to access your own Equifax report with the freeze in place. I think this is incorrect, but he did confirm the information.

Background on Security Freeze
If you are a resident of California, you have the right as of January 1, 2003 to place a security freeze on your credit report. A Security Freeze will prevent access to your credit report, allowing you to control which companies may see your credit report. However, there are certain exemptions to the Security Freeze allowed by state law that allows companies to view your report even though it is frozen.


Experian Security Freeze - California SB168

http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_experian.html
This information is from the Experian document, "Notification of Rights for California Consumers":

Learn the basics about SB 168, California's credit freeze (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168.html)

How do I add an Experian security freeze?

To add an Experian security freeze, your request must be submitted in writing via certified mail.

Experian
701 Experian Parkway
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX †75013

Include your full name, with middle initial and generation, such as JR, SR, II, III, etc.; current mailing address; Social Security number; date of birth; previous addresses for the past five years, and two proofs of address, such as a utility bill, driver's license, bank statement, insurance statement, etc.,

Also include either a credit card number with expiration date, check, or money order to pay for the fee related to this service.You will be sent an information letter that includes a personal identification number (PIN) and a telephone number to use to unfreeze your credit.


How much will it cost?

A security freeze is free if you are a victim of identity theft and provide Experian with a valid police report or Department of Motor Vehicles investigative report. Otherwise, the fee for placing a security freeze on a credit report is $59.95 per year.

Experian tells us that while the fee is annual, it's only triggered if you try to thaw your report after the year expires. That means that for seniors
and others who intend to freeze the report and leave it frozen, it's only a one-time fee.

In other words, if you freeze your Experian report today, but after the end of this year you don't try to thaw it for 5 years, Experian would charge you $59.95 - not $299.75 (5 times 59.95).

They've stated that they structured the plan this way instead of using a per thaw fee, because they wanted to make sure that the thaw process was as quick as possible. They didn't want to tie thawing to a fee payment that could potentially slow it down and slow down loan approvals, etc.

They're reviewing they're pricing structure, so it may change in the future. We'll see.

This is the complete text of the document regarding the security freeze:

California consumers also have a right to place a "security freeze" on their credit reports, which will prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing any information in their credit report without the consumer's express authorization, except to those with whom they have an existing account or a collection agency acting on behalf of the existing account, for purposes of reviewing (account maintenance, monitoring, credit line increases and account upgrades and enhancements) or collecting the account. A consumer's information may be used for the purposes of prescreening as provided for by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, even if a security freeze is on the report. A security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent; however, using a security freeze may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent requests or applications regarding new loan, credit, mortgage, insurance, government services or payments, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellular phone, utilities, digital signature, internet credit card transaction, or other services, including an extension of credit at point of sale.

The fee for placing a security freeze on a credit report is $59.95 per year. If a California consumer is a victim of identity theft and submits a valid police report or Department of Motor Vehicles investigative report, the fee will be waived. A request for a security freeze must be sent to Experian via certified mail. (see Instructions for writing to us.) A confirmation notice will be sent once the security freeze has been added, and the consumer will be given a personal identification number that will be required to temporarily or permanently remove the freeze.

To temporarily remove a security freeze in order to apply for credit or for any transaction that requires that another party access the consumer's credit report, consumers need only log on to www.experian.com/tempfreezeremoval or call 1 888 EXPERIAN (1 888 397 3742), then enter their identification information and personal identification number, and select the number of days the freeze is to be removed. Telephone calls must be placed from the state of California. To permanently remove a security freeze, consumers must send their requests by Certified Mail to Experian. A freeze must be removed within three days after the credit reporting agency receives the request. If a California consumer moves out of state, they must notify Experian in writing to permanently remove the freeze. (see Instructions for writing to us.) If a consumer who has a security freeze placed on their credit report moves to a new address within the state of California, they must submit two proofs of the new address, such as a utility bill, driver's license, bank statement, insurance statement, etc. (see Instructions for writing to us.)

Instructions for writing to us: Mail you request to Experian, 701 Experian Parkway, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013. Include full name, with middle initial and generation, such as JR, SR, II, III, etc.; current mailing address; Social Security number; date of birth; previous addresses for the past five years, and two proofs of address, such as a utility bill, driver's license, bank statement, insurance statement, etc. To renew a security alert or to request a free credit report at the conclusion of the security alert, include the date the alert was added and your credit report number. To add a security freeze, include payment or a copy of a police report or DMV investigative report. To permanently remove a security freeze, include your personal identification number."


TransUnion Security Freeze - California SB168

http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_transunion.html
This information is from the TransUnion web site - http://www.transunion.com. It's not easy to find, so I'm posting it here:

Learn the basics about SB 168, California's credit freeze (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168.html)

How do I add a TransUnion security freeze?
To add a TransUnion security freeze, your request must be submitted in writing to:

TransUnion Security Freeze
Post Office Box 6790
Fullerton, California, 92834 6790.

No request may be made by telephone. In your letter, please include your name, address, social security number, and a credit card number with expiration date to pay for the fee related to this service. A security freeze will be applied to the credit file within 5 business days of receipt of the request. You will be provided with an information letter including a personal identification number (PIN), and a credit report after the security freeze has been added.


How much will it cost?
Security Freeze services will be free of charge to you if:
- you are a victim of identity theft and provide the reporting agency with a valid police report; or
- you provide a Department of Motor Vehicles investigation report that alleges a violation of Section 530.5 of the California Penal Code.

Otherwise there will be a fee for security freeze services as follows:

The fee to add a security freeze is $29.95. The fee to temporarily lift a security freeze is $14.95. There is no fee to remove a security freeze.

Background on Security Freeze
If you are a resident of California, you have the right as of January 1, 2003 to place a security freeze on your credit report. A Security Freeze will prevent access to your credit report, allowing you to control which companies may see your credit report. However, there are certain exemptions to the Security Freeze allowed by state law that allows companies to view your report even though it is frozen.


Fraud and identity theft

http://www.experian.com/ask_max/fraud_identity_theft.html
Experian adds fraud alert and fraud victim statements to the credit histories of people who have reason to believe or who know they are fraud victims. The statements tell lenders to take extra precautions when considering an application because there is a risk that fraud is being perpetrated. A fraud victim statement asks the lender to call you at a telephone number you specify before granting credit in your name.

The fraud alert and fraud victim statements are to be used only be people who are or truly believe they may be fraud victims. The statements tell lenders that there is significant risk in approving an application in the person's name, so they become much more stringent. In fact, they often won't approve the application at all, particularly preapproved offers or applications for instant credit.

Some lenders today even automatically freeze your existing accounts for a period of time as soon as they see the fraud alert statement. Their intent is to prevent an identity thief from making charges on your accounts. That means you can't charge anything either.

For true fraud victims, not being able to get credit is a significant but bearable inconvenience. For those who aren't truly victims, not being able to get the credit you need is more than just an inconvenience.

If you have reason to believe you may be a fraud or identity theft victim, you can have a security alert added to your credit history by calling 1†888†397†3742 and selecting the fraud option. A report will be sent to you. If upon reviewing the report you find evidence of fraud or identity theft, you can have a victim statement added by calling the telephone number on the report and asking a representative for assistance.


Prevent credit fraud using a security alert

Even the most cautious consumers are vulnerable to credit fraud. Learn why and how you can prevent it.
http://mdmd.essortment.com/preventcreditf_rlql.htm
Identity theft and credit card fraud have become one of the most common non-violent crimes committed againt law-abiding citizens today. Why? Because it's low risk, difficult to prosecute, and easy. Too easy, say many consumer protection agencies.

Keeping your credit cards under lock and key won't protect you from fraud. A thief needs only a few easily obtainable pieces of personal information, such as your birthdate or social security number to establish fraudulent accounts in your name. Pre-approved credit applications found in your mailbox or discarded in your trash present another great opportunity for the would-be identity thief. The thief will submit an incomplete or inaccurate credit application in anticipation of receiving a rejection letter from the credit company. Why? Because receipt of this letter entitles the holder to a free copy of your credit file from any one of the three credit reporting agencies. Assuming you've never examined your credit report before, you will be surprised to find the depth of personal information it contains about you - social security number, birth date, previous names, previous addresses, previous employers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and every loan or credit account you may have held for the last ten years. Imagine the havoc a con artist can wreak upon your life if he or she was to obtain that much of your personal information.

Credit fraud prevention tips promulgated by credit reporting agencies do contain some helpful information. Always shred pre-approved credit offers before discarding them. Carry only the essential pieces of identification on your person. Don't keep Personal Indentification Numbers (PIN) with your ATM or credit cards.

We should all follow this advice, but you can still become a victim. How? Your mailbox! Bills and personal account statements often have more than enough personal information, including your bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and social security numbers; even your utility account numbers can aid in establishing false identities. Use a locking mailbox that allows the postal carrier to deposit mail, but prevents anyone without a key from retrieving the mail. And always put your outgoing mail into a U.S. Post Office box. Nothing makes the thief's job easier than placing mail into your own box and flipping up the red flag.

Unfortunately, even this isn't enough to prevent fraud. Every time you present your credit card or driver's license to a waiter, hotel clerk, cashier, or customer service representative, you are taking a leap of faith that this person will not use your information in any unauthorized manner. And while the overwhelming majority of service personnel who have access to this information are honest, there are always a few waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting customer. In addition, computerized databases storing consumer's credit information have become a favorite target of hackers, who find it much more profitable to steal thousands of account numbers at one time.

In response to consumer's complaints that their credit information is much too vulnerable, the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian) recommend that consumers should review their credit reports on a regular basis to ensure they haven't become victims of fraud. In fact, their websites will even allow you to register to have an email alert sent to you when there has been activity on your report. However, finding out after the fact that you have been a victim of fraud isn't exactly "prevention". And victims of identity theft will be the first to tell you that discovering someone has stolen your identity doesn't begin to eliminate your problem.

By now, you must be asking yourself if there is anything you can do that wil effectively prevent credit fraud. The answer is yes - there is in fact a very simple step you cant take to protect yourself. Call or write each of the three credit reporting agnecies and have a security alert, or fraud alert (same thing), placed on your account. A security alert will do two things: (1) prevent any creditor from opening an account in your name without explicitly contacting you first, and (2) remove your name from mailing lists sold by the credit reporting agencies to credit card companies who bombard you with pre-approved applications. According to the Fair Credit Act, if any credit agency disregards the security alert measures, and as a result you become a victim of credit fraud, you are entitled to sue that credit agency for damages.

So why isn't the security alert automatically placed on everyone's account? Because the credit rating companies make a hefty profit selling mailing lists of financially sound prospects to direct marketers. In other words, offering a greater degree of security to the consumer will cut into their profit margin.

Be aware that the security alert remains on your account for only six months. Until our politicians take action to protect consumers, you will have to go through this process twice a year. The Fair Credit Act does allow you to request that credit rating agencies permanently remove your name from all mailing lists sold to direct marketers. Just remember that without an active security alert on your account, creditors will again be permitted to open new accounts in your name without first contacting you, which is the key to protecting your credit.

Also know that placing an alert on your credit file does not protect your spouse's file. Each individual must make a separate request. And finally, you must contact each of the three credit reporting agencies. For example, placing an alert with Equifax will not protect your files with Experian or Trans Union. Don't become a victim - visit the web sites for each of the three credit reporting agencies and place a security alert on your file today!

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Written by Nancy Peavy
Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc


California Law SB 168 (Debra Bowen) Identity Theft Prevention

http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168.html
Information Updated: 27 JAN 2002

The "credit freeze" portion of this bill went into effect January 1, 2003. This allows a consumer to "freeze" their credit record at each credit bureau. There has been little media coverage so far, but I expect it will pick up soon.

You will need to contact each credit bureau to completely freeze your credit. Here's the information for how to freeze your credit at each bureau:
TransUnion (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_transunion.html)
Experian (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_experian.html)
Equifax (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_equifax.html)

Here's a short Q & A on what I've learned so far about the credit freeze: (Find )

How will a credit freeze protect me?
Placing a security freeze on your credit reports means an identity thief ó even one who has your name, address, Social Security number, birth date and more ó will not be able to get new loans and credit in your name. Thatís because lenders, retailers, utilities and other businesses need access to a credit report to review and approve new credit, loans, and services.

Who can freeze their credit?
Any citizen of California can freeze their credit. If it goes well in California, maybe other states ó or even the U.S. Congress ó will pass similar legislation. Until then, this is only available for residents of the Golden State.

How do I freeze my credit?

Please read the information for each bureau:
TransUnion (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_transunion.html)
Experian (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_experian.html)
Equifax (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_equifax.html)

How much will it cost?

Victims of identity theft can access the service for free. You'll have to provide documentation, however, from a police report or the DMV. For others, the cost varies from $12 to $59.95. Please read the specific cost for each bureau:
TransUnion (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_transunion.html)
Experian (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_experian.html)
Equifax (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/legislation_california_sb168_equifax.html)

Isn't this just another way for the credit bureaus to get more money from us?

It might seem that way, but Californians should feel lucky that this is available. Fraud alerts (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/flag.html) are ignored by some creditors and a security freeze provides a much stronger means of protection. The service is free for victims, and believe me, they are glad to have the option.

Will I need to freeze my report with each credit bureau?
Yes. When you go to buy a new car, open a charge account, or refinance your house, you don't know which bureau the lender will use to request your report. In other words, I you'll need to freeze your credit at each bureau.

How will I open new credit lines if my report is frozen?
People whoíve frozen their credit reports can still get new loans and credit for themselves. Credit bureaus have set up a PIN-based system to allow people with frozen credit reports to contact the credit bureau, provide a PIN number, and allow their credit report to be released to a specific lender or for a specific period of time. Credit bureaus are obligated to release the report within three business days of such a request.

Will I be able to request my own report if my credit is frozen?

Seems like the answer is yes, though Equifax is saying no. On 9/21/02 Amendment SB 1730 was enacted into law that allowed access to a frozen file to include:

a) Section 1785.11.2 (l) (8) Any person or entity administering a credit file monitoring subscription service to which the consumer has subscribed.

b) Section 1785.2 (l) (9) Any person or entity for the purpose of providing a consumer with a copy of his or her credit report upon the consumer's request.

So as long as the you initiate the request then you should be able to see your report, whether or not a freeze is in place.


Experian joins two other credit bureaus in offering freeze on file.   2007

Amid growing concern about identity theft, Experian has joined the nation's two other major credit bureaus in allowing consumers to freeze access to their credit files.

Experian, which is based in Costa Mesa, announced Thursday that it will offer the option nationwide beginning Nov. 1.

Starting on that date, "Experian will allow any consumer across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories to place a freeze on their credit report," the company said in a statement.

A credit file freeze prevents new creditors from accessing the credit file without the consumer's consent. When a freeze is in place, an identity thief cannot open a new account because the potential creditor will not be able to check the credit file.

Consumers, meanwhile, can "unlock" their accounts temporarily if they are applying for credit or permanently if their security concerns are allayed.

Experian said freezes will be free for victims of identity theft. The fee for other consumers for a freeze - or a temporary or permanent removal of a freeze - will be $10, unless a lower fee is mandated by state law, the company said.

 

We welcome your questions, comments or suggestions. Please feel free to contact us.

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