Not long ago, the Legal Edge presented an article that addressed the problem of identity theft, complete with suggestions on its prevention and what to do if you become a victim of it. It is time for a short update.Pennsylvanians have been given a new tool to use against potential identity theft this year: You may now place a "freeze" on your files that are held by the national credit reporting bureaus. A "freeze" protects your credit information by expressly preventing credit bureaus from releasing that information to anyone without your authorization. What this means for you is that a would-be identity thief will not be able to open a new line of credit in your name with your information, as the businesses he would apply to would be unable to access your credit history. Furthermore, while frozen, no one can make changes to your identifying information because such changes would have to be confirmed by you thirty (30) days before it will be made effective.
You should consider your options carefully before requesting a credit freeze. While it may protect you against identity thieves, it may also cause problems with basic service applications, such as one for cell phone service.
You obtain a freeze through a written request, sent via certified mail, to the credit bureaus. They may change a minimal fee of roughly $10.00 to implement the freeze or temporarily lift it. There are circumstances where no fee will be assessed. Most notably, identity theft victims and senior citizens age 65 and older will not be charged a fee. There is no fee for anyone to remove a credit freeze. The contact for the major credit bureaus is as follows:
Equifax 1-800-685-1111 www.equifax.com
Experian 1-800-290-5195 www.experian.com
Transunion 5 1-888-909-8872 www.transunion.com
Mailing addresses for Credit Freeze requests (Requests must be sent by Certified Mail):
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Transunion, Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834
For more information, you may go visit the Web site of the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General at http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/consumer.aspx?id=2085.
ABOUT THE WRITERS: Thomas P. Heeney, Jr., Esquire and Stephen F.
Gehringer, Esquire are attorneys of Heeney & Associates, P.C. Heeney & Associates, P.C. is a full service law firm for businesses, professionals and individuals alike. Heeney & Associates P.C. has offices in Boyertown in Berks County and Pipersville in Bucks County. Our toll-free number is 1-877-588-8817.
DISCLAIMER: This column is a service providing only general legal advice. The information is not meant to be acted upon without proper legal assistance. As with all such matters of the law, anyone requiring legal help is strongly encouraged to seek the aid of an attorney.