Security Freeze

Effective October 2007, Massachusetts consumers can place a security freeze on their credit report, prohibiting a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from the report without written authorization ( M.G.L. c. 93H ). If you have been a victim of identity theft, and you provide the credit reporting agency with a valid police report, it cannot charge you to place, lift or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit reporting agency may charge up to $5 each to place, lift or remove a security freeze

Victims of identity theft must send a written request to each of the credit bureaus ( Equifax, Experian, TransUnion ) by regular, certified or overnight mail and include name, address, date of birth, social security number, and credit card number and expiration date for payment, if applicable. Each credit bureau has specific requirements to place a security freeze. Review these requirements on the websites for each prior to sending your written request.

The credit bureaus have three business days after receiving your request to place a security freeze on your credit report. The credit bureaus must also send written confirmation to you within five business days and provide you with a unique personal identification number (PIN) or password, or both that can be used by you to authorize the removal or lifting of the security freeze.

Fraud Alerts

Contact the fraud department of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requires that creditors contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. When you place a fraud alert on your credit file, all three credit bureaus are required by law to automatically send a credit report free of charge to you. This "one-call" fraud alert will remain in your credit file for at least 90 days.

When you get your three credit reports, review them carefully. Look to see whether there are any accounts that you did not open, unexplained debts on your true accounts, and inquiries that you didn't initiate. Contact any companies if there is any unexplained activity.

If you made an identity theft report to a police department, you may submit a copy of that report to one of the three major credit bureaus, and then an extended fraud alert will be placed in your credit file for a 7-year period. Having a fraud alert on your credit file means that any time a "user" of your credit report (for instance, a credit card company, lender, or other financial institution) checks your credit report, it will be notified that you do not authorize any new credit cards, any increase in credit limits, the issuance of a new card on an existing account, or other increases in credit, unless the "user" takes extra precautions to ensure that it is giving the additional credit to you (and not to the identity thief).