By Sonya Sellmeyer, Consumer Advocacy Manager for the Iowa Division of Insurance
According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 20,000 Iowans reported being victims of identity theft in 2021. Identity theft occurs when another person steals your financial or personal information such as credit card information, social security or insurance numbers. The information can be used to open or use credit, obtain medical services, or even steal your tax refund. Identity theft can occur through a data breach, stealing your wallet or purse, or “phishing” by sending emails or “smishing” with text messages that appear to be from an organization lawful to obtain your personal information. A credit freeze is a tool Iowans can use to protect themselves against identity theft.
Freezing your credit locks out access to your credit report and new lines of credit. Anyone can freeze their credit for free, and you don’t have to be a victim of identity theft.
To freeze your credit, you must initiate the freeze separately with all three credit bureaus. This can be done online, over the phone or by mail.
Equifax, PO Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348 or 800-685-1111
Experian, PO Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013 or 888-397-3742
TransUnion, PO Box 160, Woodlyn, PA 19094 or 888-909-8872
Each of the three can ask you different questions to verify your identity. Questions may include your address and financial history for the past two years.
If you need to use your credit to open a credit card or buy a car, unblock it with the office the lender uses. Once the request to temporarily “unfreeze” your credit is received, the office has three days to unfreeze it or 15 minutes if received via a secure internet connection. Credit already established with businesses will not be affected by this freeze and will have no impact on your credit score. When you make your credit accessible, be sure to freeze it again once the credit check is done.
Parents and legal guardians can also impose a credit freeze on anyone under the age of 16. Incapable adults and active duty military personnel may also have their credit frozen by an authorized person.
Plus, order a free credit report to ensure your credit history is correct and up-to-date. A free annual credit report can be made at annualcreditreport.com or at 877-322-8228, and request that the report be pulled from each of the three credit bureaus. Until the end of December 2022, you can request a free credit report each week. Normally, you can request a free credit report each year from each of the three bureaus.
If you have been the victim of identity theft, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office offers a free identity theft passport program. Freezing your credit doesn’t guarantee you won’t be a victim of identity theft, but it’s an easy and free way to protect access to credit.
Published by press release on July 5, 2022. Filed under State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through RSS 2.0. Comments and pings are currently closed.