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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > October 2018 > Federal Law Changes Can Help You Protect Your Identity – For Free!

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Federal Law Changes Can Help You Protect Your Identity – For Free!


Consumers often wonder how to best prevent identity theft before it happens.  As of September 21, 2018, initial fraud alerts now last for one year and security freezes are free and available to adults and children.

Initial Fraud Alerts – An initial fraud alert mandates that a creditor takes additional steps to verify your identity prior to granting credit.  For example, if you apply for an in-store credit card, the store may ask you to produce additional forms of identification or ask you questions that only you would know the answer to so that they can guarantee it is you.  This can help protect your identity because the person pretending to be you would need multiple forms of identification or special knowledge to have credit granted in your name. Previously, initial fraud alerts stayed on a credit report for 90 days; that time has now increased to one year.  For victims of identity fraud, an initial fraud alert will last seven years.  You can continually renew initial fraud alerts after they expire.

Initial fraud alerts can be placed by contacting any one of the main credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion; that company will then share the information with the other two CRAs.

Security Freezes - A security freeze restricts access to your credit report, resulting in most creditors refusing to grant new lines of credit unless the freeze is temporarily lifted or removed.  Traditionally, in Ohio, CRAs could charge $5 each time a person added, lifted, or removed a security freeze.  Now, the CRAs are prohibited from charging any fees associated with security freezes. 

Security freezes can be placed by providing proper identification to each of the CRAs.  After the first contact, the CRA has one day to place the freeze if requested via phone and three days after receipt of the request if placed via mail. To temporarily lift or permanently remove a security freeze, consumers must provide proof of identification, and the CRA must lift or remove the freeze within one hour if requested by phone, or online, or three days after receipt of the request if placed via mail.   When requesting to temporarily lift a freeze, the consumer must specify when the freeze should be placed back on the credit report. 

A “protected consumer” is a child under the age of 16 or a person for whom a guardian has been appointed.  A parent/guardian can request a security freeze for that person so long as they provide proof of authority to act on behalf of that person (ex. – court order, birth certificate, etc.) and proof of identification for the protected consumer and the parent/guardian (ex. – Social Security card for both).  This freeze is also free of charge, and can be lifted later by the parent/guardian or by the child once the child turns 16 years old. 

There are many ways to protect your identity.  The initial fraud alert and the security freeze are both tools that are available under federal law, and the change in law now makes these tools free. 

If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at  or 800-282-0515.