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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 24, 2007
McKenna applauds TransUnion and Equifax and helps explain new credit freeze rules

SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna applauded decisions by TransUnion and Equifax to offer consumers the ability to freeze access to their credit reports. McKenna said it’s important for consumers to understand how TransUnion’s credit freeze rules differ from Washington laws and to not confuse the credit freeze option – which is free for victims and $10 for everyone else – and a costlier product offered by TransUnion that includes credit monitoring.

“I’m pleased that TransUnion and Equifax have decided to offer a credit report security freeze to all consumers,” McKenna said. “A security freeze is the strongest tool available to prevent identity thieves from opening new credit lines in a victim's name, wrecking their finances."

 “For a freeze to be effective, however, consumers need to also be able to freeze access to all major credit reporting agencies,” McKenna added. “Under legislation I proposed, consumers will be able to freeze their credit histories with the three major bureaus, including Experian, starting next year. Identity theft and data breach victims can request a security freeze now.”

TransUnion announced last week that it would allow consumers nationwide the ability to freeze access to their credit reports starting Oct. 15. Equifax announced it plans to follow suit and will set up procedures in October. {UPDATE: Experian has since announced that it plans to offer freezes starting Nov. 1.}

McKenna said his office created a Web page at www.atg.wa.gov/freeze.aspx to help educate consumers about credit freeze and fraud alert options available in Washington.

Here’s a breakdown of Washington’s credit freeze law and TransUnion’s new service:

  • Right now, RCW 19.182.170 allows identity theft victims and people whose information was potentially compromised in a data breach to request a free security freeze from Equifax, Experian and/or TransUnion. A freeze means that your credit history cannot be shared with potential creditors. A freeze can prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer's credit history first.

Requests must be made in writing. Credit bureaus must place the freeze no later than five business days after receiving your written request.

Qualifying individuals may be charged a fee to temporarily lift or remove a freeze; consumers should check with the credit bureaus since Washington’s current law does not address these fees.

Also, any consumer can place a free fraud alert on their credit files. An alert places a statement on your credit reports with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and instructs businesses to contact you to verify your identity prior to granting new credit. It does not block access to your credit history, however.

  • Starting Oct. 15, 2007, any consumer will be able to request a credit freeze from TransUnion. Identity theft victims will be able to add, temporarily lift or permanently remove a freeze at no cost. Other consumers will pay $10 for each of those services.

Consumers will have to request this freeze by regular mail. After receiving a PIN, consumers will be able to lift the freeze by mail or by phone.
Equifax is expected to begin allowing consumers to freeze their credit starting in October. Fees are expected to be similar to those established by TransUnion.

TransUnion is also offering a package called TrueCredit Lock that provides credit monitoring and will enable consumers to instantly freeze or unfreeze their reports online. The service is $14.95 per month or $179 per year. The Attorney General’s Office does not endorse or oppose credit monitoring services, and advises consumers to consider whether these services are beneficial.

  • Starting Sept. 1, 2008, any Washington consumer will be able to request a credit freeze with TransUnion, Equifax or Experian under legislation approved last session.

    Identity theft victims and seniors ages 65 and older will be able to place a freeze for free.  Other consumers would pay up to $10 per bureau. Consumers who aren’t entitled to a free freeze would therefore pay a total of $30 to freeze their reports with the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

    Requests must still be made in writing. Under Washington’s law, bureaus must place a freeze within five business days after receiving your written request and payment of any required fees.

    The law allows the bureaus to charge any consumer, including a victim, up to $10 for a temporary lift or removal of the freeze.  TransUnion will not charge victims for these services.

    Washington consumers will be able to request a temporary lift within 15 minutes through an electronic contact method chosen by the credit bureau, or within three business days of receiving a request by mail.


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Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432

 

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