Columbus, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says recent federal law changes will help consumers prevent identity theft before it happens.
As of September 21, initial fraud alerts now last for one year and security freezes are free and available to adults and children.
DeWine outlines the changes in the October edition of Consumer Advocate, an online newsletter published monthly by the Ohio Attorney General's office.
According to DeWine, an initial fraud alert mandates that a creditor takes additional steps to verify a consumer's identity prior to granting credit. This can help a consumer protect his or her identity because the person pretending to be the individual would need multiple forms of identification or special knowledge to have credit granted in the individual's name.
Initial fraud alerts previously stayed on a credit report for 90 days, but as of September 21, that time has been increased to one year. For victims of identity fraud, an initial fraud alert lasts seven years, and consumers can continually renew initial fraud alerts after they expire.
Initial fraud alerts can be placed by contacting any one of the main credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion; that company will then share the information with the other two CRAs.
The changes also eliminate fees associated with security freezes. A security freeze restricts access to a credit report, which will result in most creditors refusing to grant new lines of credit unless the freeze is temporarily lifted or removed, according to DeWine.
Traditionally in Ohio, CRAs could charge $5 each time a person added, lifted, or removed a security freeze. Now, the CRAs are prohibited from charging any fees associated with security freezes.
Security freezes can be placed by providing proper identification to each of the CRAs. After the first contact, the CRA has one day to place the freeze if requested via phone and three days after receipt of the request if placed via mail. To temporarily lift or permanently remove a security freeze, consumers must provide proof of identification, and the CRA must lift or remove the freeze within one hour if requested by phone, or online, or three days after receipt of the request if placed via mail. When requesting to temporarily lift a freeze, the consumer must specify when the freeze should be placed back on the credit report.
A parent or guardian can also request a security freeze for children under the age of 16, known as "protected consumers," so long as they provide proof of authority to act on behalf of the child and proof of identification for themselves and the child. This freeze is also free of charge and can be lifted later by the parent/guardian or by the child once the child turns 16 years old.
If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.