The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates over 8 million Americans become victims of identity theft each year.  Billions of dollars are spent by every year by consumers and others in losses as a result of identity theft.  The identity theft problem has significantly increased over the last decade, with complaints about identity theft rising by more than 578% in the last ten years.  

Identity thieves hit the jackpot when they use their victim’s good credit history to open a wide variety of new accounts, including credit cards, utility accounts, checking accounts, Internet accounts and more. The identity thieves skip out on the bills, and creditors unknowingly pursue the identity theft victims and destroy their credit in the process. This crime, known as “new account fraud,” often costs businesses and consumers a significant amount of time and money because it takes much longer to discover and correct than “existing account fraud.”  Don’t let this happen to you!  

47 states have enacted credit freeze laws.  Alabama, Missouri and Michigan have not enacted state credit freeze laws.  Minnesota’s Identity Theft freeze law helps citizens protect themselves from new account fraud. The law empowers consumers to freeze their credit reports by contacting Experian, Equifax or Trans Union and requesting a credit report freeze.  A credit report freeze will deny identity thieves access to the consumer’s credit history and prevent them from obtaining new credit cards or loans under the consumer’s name.

security freeze map

In Minnesota, any Minnesotan can impose such a freeze on his or her personal credit report for any reason. Victims of identity theft can have their credit reports frozen without charge. Non-victims can proactively freeze their credit report for a $5 fee. When a credit reporting agency receives a freeze request, it must place the freeze within 3 days of the request, and provide a unique PIN to the consumer within 10 days of the request.

Consumers may use the PIN to temporarily lift or “thaw” his or her report for a specific period of time or for a specific creditor. For example, suppose that you are looking to purchase a new car. If you know that you want to buy the car from Dealership XYZ, you may contact the credit reporting agencies and allow that specific dealership to access your credit report. Or you may request that your credit report be accessible to any creditor for a specific period of time, such as 30 days, to give you time to shop at several dealerships. After the specified time, your credit report will automatically refreeze.

Be sure to keep the PIN in a safe place. If you forget your PIN, you can get a second one for free, but will have to pay $5 for a third one. Like placing the freeze, victims of identity theft can thaw their credit reports without charge, while non-victims may be charged a $5 fee.

Planning Ahead – When your credit file is frozen, no one will be approved for new credit. In order for you to obtain new credit, you must use your PIN and contact the credit reporting agencies to thaw your file. While Experian, Equifax and Trans Union are required to thaw credit reports in an expedited manner, thawing your file may take up to three business days. Be sure to plan ahead and temporarily thaw your credit file before applying for credit.

Freezing your Credit Report – Because different credit issuers may use different credit reporting agencies, you will need to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Each of the three credit reporting agencies has its own process for taking credit freeze requests. If you are a victim of identity theft, you will need to provide Experian, Equifax and Trans Union with a copy of either the police report or case number documenting the theft to avoid the $5 fee.

If you are a resident of Alabama, despite the absence of an Alabama credit freeze law, you can still place a credit freeze on your consumer files with Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.  Keep reading to learn how Alabama residents can freeze their credit files.

How do Alabama consumers add a credit freeze to their credit report?  By following these steps, Alabamians can freeze their credit files:

1.  Notify all three consumer reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and Trans Union, in writing, at the addresses below that you are requesting a credit freeze: 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

2.  Send your letter certified mail and include your full name, address Social Security number, and date of birth.  If you have moved within the past 5 years, it’s a good idea to include your previous addresses and proof of your current address.  You could use a utility bill or phone bill as adequate proof of your current address. You should also include proof of your identity.  This can be accomplished by including a copy of your driver’s license or state issued identification card and your Social Security card.

3.  If you are not a victim of identity theft, then you will need to include payment with your credit freeze request.  The fee is $10 to place, lift or remove the credit freeze.  If you are a victim of identity theft, then you will NOT need to pay for the credit freeze. 

As of September 1, 2007, Experian, Equifax and Trans Union agreed to give Alabamians have the right to place a credit freeze on your credit report. A Credit Freeze will prevent access to your credit report, allowing you to control which companies may see your credit report. However, there are certain exemptions to the Credit Freeze allowed by state law that allows companies to view your report even though it is frozen.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, and you need assistance in requesting, reviewing and disputing accounts on your credit report, then contact Alabama identity theft lawyer Micah Adkins for a free legal consultation.