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Ohio Security Freeze
Ohio law allows you to freeze, or lock up, your credit reports to keep identity thieves from opening new credit in your name.
Freezes cost $5 per credit bureau, and to be effective, you’ll need to freeze your credit reports at all three of the major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Freezes are largely set it and forget it. They don’t affect your ability to use your existing credit cards or pay on your loans. Creditors you do business with will still be able to report your payments to the bureaus, so, even with a freeze, you’ll be able to continue to build good credit.
When you want to open a new credit account, you’ll contact the designated credit bureau, provide your password and pay a $5 fee for a “thaw” that will temporarily unlock your credit report so the lender can check your credit history.
Victims of identity theft are eligible for free freezes and free thaws, but victims may find the process is a little more cumbersome, because bureaus sometimes demand lots of documentation.
Ohio law requires credit bureaus to act fast when you want to thaw a freeze: Bureaus must unlock your credit report within 15 minutes of receiving your request (and payment) by phone, mail or Internet.
When you apply for a freeze, make sure you have your Social Security number and a credit (or bank) card handy. Keep a pen nearby so you can record your password. You do not need to purchase credit monitoring or other products in order to freeze your credit report.
By phone: 1-800-685-1111. (Press 3 at the first prompt to bypass the long introductory message.)
By certified mail: Send your full name, complete address, Social Security number, date of birth and $5 fee (not cash) to Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348.
By phone: 1-888-909-8872.
By certified mail: Send your full name, current proof of address, date of birth and Social Security number and proof of current residence (i.e., a copy of your driver's license ) and $5 fee (not cash) to TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.
By certified mail: Send your full name, with middle initial and suffix (for example, Jr. or II), Social Security number, date of birth, current address and previous addresses for the past two years, a copy of a government-issued ID card and a copy of a utility or other bill, and $5 payment to Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013.
Tips for freezes and thaws:
Getting a freeze or thaw by phone or a secure computer takes just a few minutes. The mail process takes a longer and should be avoided if possible.
If you’re planning to apply for new credit in the near future, you may want to wait until afterward to freeze your credit reports.
Thaws are temporary and your report will be refrozen at no additional charge when the clock you set expires. You can keep the cost down by asking the company you’re applying to for credit which bureau it will go to for a credit check and then paying for a thaw only at that bureau. (Some banks check all three, so figure you’ll spend $15 total for thaws.)
Ohio’s law lets you request a thaw for a set period of time and/or for a specific creditor. If you thaw for a creditor, you have to get its name exactly right. Generally, thawing for set periods will do the trick. If you’re shopping several lenders for a loan, figure on a two-week thaw, which will save you from paying a thaw fee for each creditor. For a single creditor, ask how long it needs to check your credit.
Freezes protect you from a type of identity theft called “new account fraud,” which happens when an identity thief opens credit accounts in your name. If a creditor can’t check a credit report, it will deny the credit application. A freeze won’t protect you from other types of ID theft, such as tax identity fraud, that don’t involve credit.
If you have a freeze, use it instead of, not in addition to, paid credit monitoring services.
Don’t confuse freezes with free “credit alerts,” which simply warn creditors to be careful in issuing credit in your name, but do not block access. Credit freezes must be placed individually with each credit bureau.
Married couples may have joint loans, but each partner has an individual credit report, and each will separately have to request a freeze.
Identity theft victims: If your information was stolen but not misused, you may not be considered an identity theft victim by the bureaus and may not qualify for free freezes and thaws. If you want to register as a victim, check each bureau’s website so you know the documentation you will need to provide.
If you have trouble getting or thawing a freeze:
If you are a Cuyahoga County resident and have trouble with a thaw or freeze, file a complaint with the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs.
Live outside the county? File a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.