Identity Theft

Identity Theft - 9/26/08

INTRO: Identity theft is a terrible problem. If you become a victim, it could cost you thousands of dollars and untold hours repairing damage to your good name and your credit record. Thankfully, Ohio has created a new tool to help you protect your identity. Here to explain is attorney Michael Solomon.

JEFF: HOW DO THIEVES STEAL YOUR IDENTITY?

Mike: The key is to get personal identifying information, such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. With this personal information, they open new credit accounts and loans in your name.

JEFF: WHAT'S OHIO'S NEW TOOL THAT WE CAN USE TO PROTECT OURSELVES?

Mike: It's called a credit freeze. The law allows you to lock up your credit, so no one else can use it without your OK.

Here's how it works. Typically, when a bank, credit card company or store is asked to issue new credit, the first thing it does is check your credit report with one of the three national credit bureaus. Under the new law, if you've put a freeze on your credit, the credit bureau is prohibited from releasing any information about your credit without your consent. And without access to your credit report, lenders and credit card companies generally will not issue new credit in your name. You should get very good protection.

JEFF: HOW CAN I ACTUALLY PUT A FREEZE ON MY CREDIT?

Mike: You should send a certified letter to each of the credit bureaus, along with the freeze fee of $5.00. That's $5.00 for each of the three credit bureaus, or $15.00 altogether.

JEFF: WHAT IF I WANT TO TAKE OUT A LOAN?

Mike: You can lift the freeze yourself at any time just by contacting the credit bureaus. You can lift the freeze by phone, using a password given to you by the credit bureau. The freeze will be lifted within 15 minutes. Again, there's a charge--$5.00 per credit bureau.

JEFF: HOW DO I CONTACT THE CREDIT BUREAUS?

Mike: There are three national bureaus:
www.experian.com/freeze
www.equifax.com (click "security freeze")
www.transunion.com (click security freeze under Identity Theft)