Security Freeze Information for Michigan Consumers
The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
SECURITY FREEZE INFORMATION FOR MICHIGAN CONSUMERS
Each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) now offers all Americans the ability to place a credit "freeze," or deny access to, their credit reports. If you place a security freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze. This will make it more difficult for an identity thief to open a new account in your name. Placing a security freeze does not affect your credit score - nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report, or from buying your credit report or score.
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding security freezes:
How much does it cost?
A security freeze is free to identity theft victims who have a police report documenting the identity theft. If you are not an identity theft victim, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each credit bureau. That is a total of $30 to freeze your files at each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Note there is a separate $10 fee with each agency to lift the freeze, either temporarily or permanently. You will need to lift the freeze temporarily to open a new credit account, get a loan, apply for insurance, or authorize an employer to conduct a background check.
How do I place a security freeze?
Each of the three credit reporting agencies now offer the ability to place, thaw, and remove security freezes on their websites. Website information for each of the three credit reporting agencies is provided below.
Security freezes may alternatively be placed through a written request to each of the three credit reporting agencies. You must provide identifying information.
Please note that if you are a victim of identity theft and you would like to request a waiver of any fees for placing a security freeze, you will be required to send a written request to place a security freeze, or at the very least provide a copy of your police report by mail.
If you are a victim of identity theft or simply wish to send a written request, a sample letter that you can use to request a security freeze is provided at the end of this Consumer Alert.
Write to the addresses listed below and provide the documentation listed:
#1 Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
· Send by certified mail.
· Include name, current and former addresses for the last two years, Social Security number, and date of birth. Because you are mailing something that includes your Social Security number, please make sure you send this using ONLY a secured mail box. Try and take it directly to your local post office, if you can. Blue U.S. Postal Service mailboxes are also secure, so you can use these as well. If you have a mailbox in front of your house, please DO NOT use it to send outgoing mail, as these mailboxes ARE NOT SECURE.
· Include a copy of a utility bill, insurance, or bank statement, etc., showing your name and current mailing address.
· $10.00 fee payable by check, money order, or credit card. If you are paying by credit card, provide the name on the card, the type of credit card (American Express, MasterCard, VISA, or Discover), account number, expiration date, and card identification number (4-digit number on front of American Express card or 3-digit number on back of other credit cards).
To learn more about the Equifax security freeze, go to www.Equifax.com.
#2 Experian Security Freeze
P. O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
· Send by certified mail.
· 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.
· $10.00 fee payable by check, money order, or credit card. If you are paying by credit card, provide the name on the credit card, type of credit card, account number, and expiration date.
To learn more about the Experian security freeze, go to www.Experian.com.
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P. O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
· Send by certified mail.
· Include name, current and former addresses for the last five years, Social Security number, and date of birth.
· $10.00 fee payable by credit card. Give name on the credit card, the type of credit card, account number, and expiration date.
To learn more about the TransUnion security freeze, go to www.TransUnion.com.
How long will my credit report remain frozen?
A security freeze will remain on your credit report until you request that it be removed.
Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?
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 a specific creditor, or you can lift it permanently. After you send your letter asking for the freeze, each of the credit reporting agencies will send you a Personal Identification Number (PIN). You will also get instructions on how to lift the freeze. There are a variety of ways to lift the freeze (by mail, phone, or Internet) using your PIN. The fee for lifting the freeze is $10.
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.
Can a creditor get my credit score if my file is frozen?
No. A creditor who requests your file from one of the three credit reporting agencies will only get a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
Will a freeze lower my credit score?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) indicates that a security freeze will not lower your credit score. For more information from the FTC, please visit www.ftc.gov, and view their publication, "To Buy or Not To Buy: Identity Theft Spawns New Products and Services To Help Minimize Risk."
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. The process for lifting the freeze is described above.
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 mail a completed order form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
Your credit 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 preapproved credit offers). Government agencies may have access for collecting child support payments, taxes, or in the course of a legal proceeding.
Does freezing my file mean that I won't receive preapproved credit offers?
No. You can stop the preapproved credit offers by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). Or you can do this online at www.OptOutPrescreen.com. Opting out should stop most of the preapproved credit offers that you receive in the mail, although companies that you have a business relationship with can still send you credit offers. You can choose to opt out for five years, or permanently. You can also call the same number or visit the same Web site if you would like to opt back in.
Do I have to freeze my file with all three credit reporting agencies?
It is recommended that you freeze your file with all three credit reporting agencies. Different credit issuers may use different credit reporting agencies to run credit checks. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you need to freeze it 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 will be used to run your credit check. You can then ask only the credit reporting agency identified to temporarily lift the security freeze. Depending on the credit agency, you can ask for a "global lift" for a set time period, meaning all potential creditors can access your credit report during the time period you specify. Or, you may be able to ask the credit reporting agency to lift the security freeze to grant access only to a specified third party. For more information about lifting security freezes, please contact each of the three credit reporting agencies directly or visit their Web sites for more information.
Does my spouse's file have to be frozen, too?
A freeze on your credit file will not extend to your spouse. Both spouses have to freeze their separate credit files, via separate letters requesting the freeze, to get the benefit. That means the total cost for freezing is $10 x 3 credit reporting agencies x 2 people = $60.
Does a security freeze guarantee that I will not be a victim of identity theft?
No. While a security freeze can help keep an identity thief from opening most new accounts in your name, it will not prevent all types of identity theft. It will not protect you, for example, from an identity thief who uses your existing credit cards or other accounts. There are also new accounts, such as telephone, wireless, and bank accounts, which may not require a credit check. And, if there is identity theft already going on when you place the security freeze, the freeze itself won't be able to stop it. While a security freeze may not protect you in these kinds of cases, it can protect you from the vast majority of identity thefts that involve opening a new line of credit!
For more information, or to file a complaint, consumers may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
www.michigan.gov/ag (online complaint form)
SAMPLE SECURITY FREEZE LETTER
Each credit reporting agency may have different requirements to place a security freeze. Please see the requirements outlined in this Consumer Alert, along with reviewing each credit reporting agency's Web site, to make sure you comply with all of their requirements. Remember to send a letter requesting a security freeze to each credit reporting agency. Make sure you type or write clearly. Send all letters certified mail, return-receipt requested, and make sure to keep a copy of all of your letters and supporting documentation. Finally, make sure you only send copies of any supporting documentation - never send credit reporting agencies your original documents, as they likely will not be returned.
[Agency Name and Address]
I would like to place a security freeze on my credit file. My name is: ____________________________ [Make sure you include your full name, including any middle initials, former names, Jr./Sr., etc.]
My current address is:______________________________________________________
In the past two years, I have also lived at: ______________________________________
[Include additional sheets of paper, if necessary.]
My Social Security number is: _______________________________________________
My date of birth is: ________________________________________________________
I am including a copy of the following:
[List the supporting documentation you are enclosing. Remember, each credit reporting agency may have different requirements, so make sure you double-check the documentation required before sending. And remember to send copies only.]
o I am an identity theft victim [check the box if applicable]. A copy of my police report is enclosed.
o I will pay the fee of $10 for placing the freeze by:
o Check or Money Order (if applicable)
o Credit Card (select one): [Visa] [MasterCard] [American Express] [Discover]
Card number: _____________________________ Card Identification Number/Security Code (if required): ______________________
[Your signature and name]