Every year, more than eight million Americans have their personal information stolen and fraudulently used by thieves. Now, there’s a way to protect yourself against identity theft and fraud – by placing a freeze on your credit reports. A freeze will not lower your credit score.
Maryland’s security freeze law gives you a way to prevent anyone from using stolen personal information, such as your name and Social Security number, to open a new account or establish credit without authorization. Thirty-nine other states and the District of Columbia have already passed this law.
What is a credit report security freeze?
A security freeze places a restriction on your credit report and protects you against a thief opening an account in your name. Your credit report cannot be shared with potential creditors without your consent. Few businesses will open a credit account without first checking your credit history. If your credit files are frozen, even someone who had your name and Social Security number probably would not be able to obtain credit in your name.
What law requires security freezes?
The law on security freezes in Maryland went into effect on January 1, 2008. The bill authorizing the placement of a security freeze is Senate Bill 52.
How do I place a security freeze on my credit files?
Send a written request by certified mail to each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The letter should include your full name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and a photocopy of your driver’s license or other state-issued ID, or military ID. You can also send requests by telephone, e-mail or through a Web site via secure connection.
Send written requests to:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Is there a cost?
In Maryland, each agency charges a $5 fee for every security freeze you request. If you’ve been subject to ID theft, the fee will be waived – simply send each credit reporting agency a copy of your police report with each written freeze or removal request.
How long will it take for a security freeze to be in effect?
A freeze will be granted in 15 minutes. The credit reporting agencies will send you a confirmation letter and a unique PIN or password to use when you want to permanently or temporarily remove your security freeze.
Once the freeze has been authorized, you’ll receive a phone call from the reporting agency prior to the establishment of a new credit account. This eliminates a thief’s ability to open an account in your name.
Do I have to freeze my file with all three credit reporting agencies?
Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit agencies. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you must freeze it with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?
Yes. You’ll have to lift the freeze for a temporary period. In Maryland, the freeze removal fee is $5 per agency – there’s no fee if you’re the victim of an ID Theft. Contact the credit agencies and provide your PIN or password. It will take no longer than three business days from receiving your request to remove the freeze.
Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
Creditors who request to see your credit score while your file is frozen will get a message or code indicating the file is frozen.
When you have a security freeze on your credit file, certain entities will have access to it. Your credit report can still be released to your existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their own behalf. They can use it to review or collect on your account. Other creditors may also use your information to make offers of credit.
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