Even with a data breach such as the one recently reported by Marriott International, turning on a credit freeze can minimize damage from the data theft.
Each of us has a credit report (or credit "file") which compiles our credit history - bank loans, credit cards mortgages, etc. - into one place. This credit report is used by banks and lenders to determine our worthiness as borrowers. Before buying a house or a car, for example, the bank will examine your credit report.
Every report contains our credit history and status of any loans. Depending on activity, a person's credit report contains a lot of useful information for a would-be lender. However, gaining access to your credit report is also a goal of scammers and identity thieves. Thanks to a 2015 Maine law, any Maine resident of any age can place a "freeze" on their credit report for free.
A credit freeze safeguards a person’s credit report and it is the most effective way to protect consumers from identity theft. Without access to this sensitive information, an identity thief is unable to obtain credit in that person’s name, thereby greatly minimizing the potential damage from the theft.
Once the freeze is in place, the consumer has control over who can receive their credit report. As of October 15th, 2015, Maine consumers can freeze and unfreeze their credit reports as needed through a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) at no cost.
How to turn on the Credit Freeze:
Contact each of the three major credit bureaus indicating your wish to have a freeze placed on your credit report. You can do this online or by mail with all three credit bureaus: Experian and Transunion, and Equifax. In addition, with Experian and Transunion, you can place a credit freeze on your credit report via their automated telephone line. Each credit bureau will send you your unique PIN number for any future credit freeze transactions.
Contact info for the three credit bureaus:
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960; www.equifax.com; Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, Georgia 30348
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com; P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872; www.transunion.com; P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
If you choose to request a credit freeze by mail, use this sample language and remember to send your letter by registered mail.
Credit Reporting Bureau and Address (See below for this information)
I would like to place a security freeze on my credit file. My name is:
My former name was (if applies):
My current address is:
My address has changed in the past 5 years. My former address was:
My social security number is:
My date of birth is:
As of 10/15/15, Maine State Law enables me to turn the freeze on and off for free.
For any questions or concerns regarding the Maine Credit Freeze, you can contact the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at 1-800-332-8529 or the Maine Attorney General's office at 1-800-436-2131 or www.maine.gov/ag.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
Contact local law enforcement or the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or 1-877-908-3360 to report a scam or for more information on scam and fraud prevention.
To request a speaker for your group or to join our team of volunteer Fraud Fighters in Maine, contact Jane Margesson at 1-866-554-5380 for more information.
Photo Credit: AARP Fraud Watch Network