According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 15% of identity theft cases involve new account fraud. If at risk consumers can put a freeze on their credit, they can make it very difficult for would be identity thieves to open new accounts in using their identity. FInd out about a new law in Georgia and what it does about identity theft.
Beginning August 1st, 2008 Georgia put a law into effect that allows consumers to make a credit freeze to prevent identity theft or fraud or halt identity theft or fraud crimes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 15% of identity theft cases involve new account fraud. If at risk consumers can put a freeze on their credit, they can make it very difficult for would be identity thieves to open new accounts in using their identity. The law also capped the price credit reporting agencies can charge Georgia residents for this service at $3.00. The bill was first introduced by state Rep. Rob Teilhet in early 2006.
While 40 other states have some form of credit freeze laws on the books, Georgia’s new law is unique in many ways. Many states offer this service but at $10.00 a pop and some are as high as $15.00 each. “It is so low-cost,” said Georgia Watch spokeswoman Allison Lang.
To request the service, Georgia residents were advised to send a letter to each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Making a credit freeze doesn’t appear to be a breeze. Consumers are asked to:
*Send $3.00 to each credit agency.
*Send each letter by certified mail.
*Include name, address, date of birth, Social Security number
* A copy of a government issued i.d. card such as a driver’s license or military i.d.
* A copy of a utility bill or bank or insurance statement. This list is very specific and alternatives are not accepted.
According to the new Georgia identity theft prevention law, you may obtain a credit freeze for free:
Â· if you are older than 65
Â· or if you are a victim of identity theft and can provide a copy of a police report
Georgia’s new law also offers the unique option of an online temporary “thaw” that would allow consumers to apply for on the spot credit or a permanent unfreeze that should take only 15 minutes. Consumers will be given a PIN, personal identification number that can be used online or over the phone.
“Georgia is the first state to roll out the 15-minute thaw,” said Lang. Several other states are following Georgia’s lead and offering a version of the thaw starting in September, 2008.
Clark Howard, radio talk show host and a board member of the consumer watchdog group Georgia Watch, has called the measure “the best credit freeze law in the United States.”
Georgia Identity Theft Facts:
Â· Georgia has ranked 7th in the nation in the number of identity thefts were capita.
Â· In 2006, there were 8,084 cases of identity theft in Georgia.
Â· Georgia identity theft victims lost on average $1,180.00
Â· Georgia identity theft victims reported an average of 60 hours to repair credit.
President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia, Kelvin Collins, says the law provides big benefits for residents. “There really is no way to completely prevent identity theft, but being able to freeze your credit sure reduces the risk,” he said. Collins admits that the credit freeze is easier to use for some than others. It may be cumbersome for young consumers who are shopping or a home or car but he adds, “If you’re older and you’ve got a home and you’ve got a car, then it’s a huge plus.”
Addresses for the 3 Main credit Reporting Agencies:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834