Jeff: Identity theft is a major national problem. We all have seen stories where a thief has opened up a credit card in someone's name and ruined their credit. Ohio has just passed a law allowing what is called a "Security Freeze" to protect your identify . Here to discuss this new law is attorney Michael Solomon.
Jeff: What is a security Freeze.?
Mike : Under a new law that just became effective at the beginning of September, you can freeze access to your credit reports so that no one has access to the reports without your authorization . This will make it harder for a thief to open a credit card in your name because they credit card company won't be able to access your credit report so they won't issue the thief a card.
Here is how it works;
- Contact your credit reporting agency either by certified letter or any other means that the credit agency allows requesting a security freeze. They can charge you $5 for a security freeze.
- Within 3 business days the credit agency will freeze the account and send you confirmation within a week after they freeze your account.
- You will be provided a pin to allow you access to your credit report.
At that point only a few people have access to your creditor agency reports such as existing creditors , the government and a child support enforcement . Also while the freeze is in effect the credit reporting agency cannot modify the report as to your address, name, date of birth, social security number without giving you 30 days advance written notice.
Jeff: Lets say I freeze my credit report how will I be able to apply for a loan if my credit report is frozen?.
Mike: Lets say you go to a auto dealer, find the car and then sit down with them to see if you can qualify for a loan. Under the law the credit reporting agency must respond within 15 minutes of a email request or phone call to unfreeze the report to let the auto dealer check your records. Then you can freeze it again. Each freeze and unfreeze will cost you $5 . If you forget your PIN it could be longer time to unfreeze your records.
Jeff: What happens if I decide to freeze my account and the agency messes up and fails to freeze my account and someone steals my identity?
Mike: the new law allows you to sue for the following amounts:
- Your actual damages
- punitive damages if the credit reporting agency willfully violated the law.
- Attorneys fees. However in a new twist that you don't see often in the law, if you sue the credit agency and lose you could end up having to pay the attorneys fees to the credit reporting agency if the court determines that the suit was brought by the consumer in bad faith.