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Security Freeze

There are more than eight million new victims of identity theft each year in the U.S.

Many of these victims find that crooks have used stolen personal information like Social Security numbers to open new accounts in their victim’s name. A security freeze gives consumers the choice to “freeze” or lock access to their credit file against anyone trying to open up a new account or to get new credit in their name. For more information, see: Frequently Asked Questions about the security freeze. To help you decide if getting a security freeze is right for you, click here (PDF).

For the Consumers Union’s Guide to Security Freeze Protection, click here.

If you are you experiencing problems with your security freeze, click here.

When a security freeze is in place at all three major credit bureaus, an identity thief cannot open a new account because the potential creditor or seller of services will not be able to check the credit file. When the consumer is applying for credit, he or she can lift the freeze temporarily using a PIN so legitimate applications for credit or services can be processed.

Publications

  • GAO Testimony on Identity Theft before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives

    GAO was asked to testify on how the loss of personally identifiable information contributes to identity theft. This testimony summarizes (1) the problem of identity theft; (2) steps taken at the federal, state, and local level to prevent potential identity theft; and (3) vulnerabilities that remain to protecting personally identifiable information, including in federal information systems.

  • Identity Theft

    Was your personal information stolen and used fraudulently?

  • Security Freeze

    Prevent the most costly and difficult to detect form of identity theft ― false new accounts opened in your name. Find out if your state offers stronger protection from identity theft.

  • Model State Clean Credit and Identity Theft Protection Act

    The State Clean Credit and Identity Theft Protection Act offers specific, workable provisions that state legislatures can adopt to reduce the risk of identity theft and to give consumers tools to prevent some of the harm from identity theft. The model law offers types of protections and of these that have actually been adopted by state legislatures. This model law was prepared by CU and the State PIRGs.

  • Things to Consider When Deciding Whether to Place a Security Freeze

    You’ve been reading and hearing about the “security freeze” to stop new account identity theft. Should you get a security freeze? Here is some information from Consumers Union about this personal choice.

  • Are you experiencing problems with your security freeze?

    Are you experiencing problems with your security freeze? If you need to speak with a representative at the three major credit reporting agencies regarding a problem with your security freeze, please call them at these phone numbers: Equifax 800-846-5279 TransUnion 888-909-8872 Experian 800-821-8805 If you are still experiencing problems with obtaining information about your credit Continue Reading

  • Frequently asked questions about security freeze

    Credit card companies, merchants, other businesses, and government entities do not always adequately safeguard consumers’ private financial information.

  • Wyoming

    Eligibility: All consumers
    Fees: No fees for identity theft victims. All others pay $10 to place the freeze, lift it temporarily, or remove it altogether.
    Note: Requires electronic and telephone methods to lift, imposes the 15 minute lift time frame starting September 1, 2008.
    Effective date of law: July 1, 2007
    Permanent freeze remains until removal requested by consumer.
    Copy of Wyoming’s security freeze law
    Instructions for using Wyoming’s security freeze law

  • Wisconsin

    Eligibility: All consumers
    Fees: No fee for an “individual who submits evidence satisfactory to the CRAs that the individual made a report to a law enforcement agency.” All others pay $10 to place, temporarily lift, or remove the freeze altogether.
    Effective date of law: January 1, 2007
    Permanent freeze remains until removal requested by consumer.
    Copy of Wisconsin’s security freeze law
    Instructions for using Wisconsin’s security freeze law

  • West Virginia

    Eligibility: All consumers.
    Fees: No fees for identity theft victims. All others pay $5 to place the freeze, lift it temporarily, or remove it altogether.
    Effective date of the law: July 2, 2007
    Permanent freeze remains until removal requested by consumer.
    Copy of West Virginia’s security freeze law
    Instructions for using West Virginia’s security freeze law

Press Releases

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Blog Posts

  • Not Again?! P.F. Chang’s Announces Security Breach

    If you ate at the restaurant, here’s our advice Fast-casual chain restaurant P.F. Chang’s confirmed today that customers’ payment card information may have been stolen when the company fell victim to a data breach. Until P.F. Chang’s can be sure its computers are safe, visitors to P.F. Chang’s’ restaurants will see old-school manual payment card Continue Reading

  • Transaction Monitoring and Credit Monitoring in Light of the Target Breach

    Target has begun to offer security breach victims free credit monitoring for a year now that approximately 110 million Americans may have had their data compromised due to a security breach. We’ve advised consumers to conduct regular transaction monitoring to prevent fraud, and now some consumers have been asking us, “What’s the difference between transaction Continue Reading

  • Off Target: What to Do If Your Information Is in Peril

    by guest blogger Caitlin Watkins Are you one of the 40 million Americans who had their debit or credit information stolen in the recent Target security breach?  If you shopped at any Target store from November 27 to December 15th and used a credit or debit card, you are mostly likely very concerned about your Continue Reading

  • ID Theft Alert! Alleged Fraudster Caught Selling Consumer Data Online

    If you think that monitoring your credit report for fraud isn’t all that important…well…think again. According to a new federal lawsuit just made public last week,  a fraudster-friendly website has been reselling consumer data to enable ID theft.  The  website, called Superget.info,  marketed the ability to look up full Social Security numbers, birthdays, drivers license records Continue Reading

  • Consumers Union Activist passes strong ID Freeze law

    Congratulations to Jaimee Knapp and Nebraska for passing the Security Freeze Enhancement bill into law!
    Without Jaimee Napp, Nebraskans probably wouldn’t have the identity theft protections they have today. She came to Consumers Union only a few years ago as an identity theft victim motivated to make change. Since then, she has set up Identity Theft Action Council of Nebraska and has brought awareness to legislators, media and the public.

  • To Catch An Identity Thief…For Free

    Chances are, you’ve been offered an identity theft service by your credit card company or bank, or seen an ad during a baseball game, or bombarded with offerings to prevent identity theft from happening to you just about everywhere you go…and of course, for a fee. But do these services actually work, and what exactly do they do? Consumer Federation of America has a new report, “To Catch a Thief: Are Identity Theft Services Worth the Cost?” to help answer these important questions.

  • Nebraska Identity Theft Bill Advances

    GUEST POST by Jaimee Napp, Executive Director of Identity Theft Action Council of Nebraska:

    Recently, the Nebraska Unicameral unanimously gave its first round approval to a security freeze enhancement bill (LB 177). In 2007, Nebraska passed The Credit Report Protection Act allowing all Nebraska consumers to freeze their credit.

  • What the Postal Service and the FTC didn’t say about ID theft

    Money Mom and many of her colleagues at Consumers Union got a brochure in the mail this past week from the Postal Service warning about identity theft. The brochure is from the Federal Trade Commission and tells consumers how to “Deter, Detect and Defend” themselves from identity thieves… with one glaring oversight: no information on how to place a security freeze.

  • Experian Steps Up

    On Thursday Oct 4th Experian became the last of the Big Three credit reporting agencies to announce, in a press release, that the company would offer the security freeze (the most effective tool in fighting new account fraud) to all consumers nationwide, DC and in the US territories. Experian’s press release stated that the company would begin the program on November 1st of 2007.

  • Tell TransUnion, Experian and Equifax you deserve the best

    This may be the perfect opportunity for consumers to make an impact and obtain more control over their credit files and identities through a low-cost, easy to use security freeze.

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News Articles

  • Montanans locking credit reports
    Source: Helena Independent Record (Tuesday November 6, 2007)

    More and more consumers are taking advantage of security freeze protection

  • Consumers score the right to freeze credit
    Source: USA Today (Friday September 21, 2007)

    TransUnion announces it will offer the security freeze in all 50 states

  • Wisconsin security freeze starts January 1
    Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Saturday December 23, 2006)

    Wisconsin consumers will have a new tool for fending off identity theft.

  • Guest Opinion: Have you had your identity stolen yet?
    Source: Billings Gazette (Saturday September 16, 2006)

    Montana consumers will have a way to stop thieves from opening fraudulent accounts using stolen information if state lawmakers pass a security freeze law.

  • Anti-ID theft measure lets consumers freeze credit accounts
    Source: Arizona Daily Star (Saturday March 11, 2006)

    Consumers Union says Arizonans would pay too much for the proposed “security freeze.”

  • Editorial: Credit protection
    Source: St. Petersburg Times (Tuesday January 17, 2006)

    The Florida state legislature should create an optional security freeze so Floridians can protect themselves against identity theft and credit card fraud.

  • Connecticut Governor signs ID theft law
    Source: Insurance Journal (Sunday July 10, 2005)

    Under a new law signed by Governor M. Jodi Rell, consumers in Connecticut will have the right to put a security freeze on their credit files to prevent identity thieves from opening new credit accounts in their names.

  • States scramble to protect data
    Source: Washington Post (Saturday April 9, 2005)

    Lawmakers in numerous states around the country are considering bills to give consumers the right to put a security freeze on their credit files to keep identity thieves from opening new accounts in their names.

  • Editorial: Freeze identity theft
    Source: Seattle Times (Tuesday March 15, 2005)

    The Seattle Times editorializes in favor of legislation to allow Washington State residents to put a security freeze on their credit files to thwart identity thieves.