Putting a security freeze on your credit report is now an option in Illinois for consumers concerned about identity theft.
A security freeze prohibits (with certain exceptions) the credit reporting agency from releasing your credit report or any information from it without your express authorization.
The credit reporting agency may charge up to $10 each time it places, removes, or temporarily lifts a security freeze. Consumers 65 and older may place a freeze or permanently lift a freeze, but they may be charged up to $10 for each temporary lifting of a freeze.
It’s free for victims of previous identity theft to place, remove or temporarily lift a security freeze.
Here’s how to put on the “freeze”
A security freeze means that your credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft, because most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history. If your credit files are frozen, even someone who has your name and Social Security number probably will not be able to obtain credit in your name.
For each, you must:
• Send a letter by certified mail.
• If you are a victim of identity theft, you must include either a copy of the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft.
• Provide your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.) address, Social Security number, and date of birth.
• If you have moved in the past 5 years, supply the addresses where you have lived during that period.
• Provide proof of current address such as a current utility bill or phone bill.
• Send a photocopy of a government issued identification card (state driver’s license or ID card, military identification, etc.).
• If applicable, include payment by check, money order or credit card (Visa, Master Card, American Express or Discover cards only).
Here are some Qs and A’s from the attorney general about security freezes:
How long does it take to put a security freeze into effect?
Within five business days after receiving your letter, the credit reporting agencies (listed later) will place a freeze on providing credit reports to potential creditors. Within 10 business days after receiving your letter to place a freeze on your account, the credit reporting agencies will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep this PIN or password in a safe place.
Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?
Yes. You can have a security freeze temporarily lifted for a specified period of time or for a specific business. There is up to a $10 charge for either temporarily lifting the security freeze or allowing a specific potential creditor to access your credit report. Victims of identity theft can temporarily lift the security freeze or allow a specific party to access their credit report at no charge. The steps to temporarily lift a security freeze or to allow a specific potential creditor to access your credit report are as follows:
• Contact the credit reporting agencies above.
• The manner by which you contact them is determined by them, but it may be by way of telephone, fax or over the Internet or by mail;
• You must provide proper identification;
• You must provide your unique PIN or password; and
• You must specify during what time period your credit report will be accessible to potential creditors (for example August 1 to August 5) or for which potential creditor you want the security freeze lifted (for example: Sears).
How long does it take for a security freeze to be lifted?
Credit bureaus must lift a freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request.
What will a potential creditor who requests my file see if it is frozen?
A potential creditor will see a message or a code indicating the file is frozen.
Can a potential creditor get my credit score if my file is frozen?
No. A potential creditor who requests your file from one of the three credit bureaus will only get a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
Can I order my own credit report if my file is frozen?
Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
When you have a security freeze on your credit file, certain entities still have access to it. Your 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. Government agencies may also have access in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
Do I have to freeze my file with all three credit bureaus?
Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit bureaus. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you must freeze it with Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.
Will a freeze lower my credit score?
To protect my credit, should my spouse’s credit file be frozen too?
Does freezing my file mean that I won’t receive pre-approved credit offers?
No. You can stop the pre-approved credit offers by calling 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688). Or you can do this online at www.optoutprescreen.com. This will stop most of the offers, such as the ones that go through the credit bureaus. The opt-out request lasts for five years, or you can make it permanent.
Here are the addresses for the three credit-reporting bureaus:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union Security Freeze
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790