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September 18, 2018

Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

BISMARCK, ND – Changes in federal law that take effect on Friday this week will make it even easier to protect consumers’ credit from identity theft, announced Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Beginning September 21, 2018, placing a security freeze on a credit file is free.

“A security freeze prevents an identity thief from opening new credit and charge accounts in your name,” said Stenehjem. “It is the quickest and easiest way to make sure your personal and financial information stays safe, and I encourage everyone to do it.” Stenehjem said he has had a credit freeze in place with all three credit bureaus for several years.

The new federal law takes effect a little over a year after the massive data breach at Equifax, where the social security numbers, bank account and credit card information of more than 60 million Americans were stolen. Equifax is one of the three major credit bureaus. TransUnion and Experian are the other two.

Credit bureaus compile information about bank and credit card accounts and loans, as well as income, work history, and assets. Most businesses will not open new credit or loan accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history. If a consumer’s credit files are frozen, even someone who is using a stolen name and Social Security number probably will not be able to open new credit accounts. When a consumer places a freeze, the credit bureau issues a PIN that can be used to temporarily “thaw” the freeze so the consumer can apply for a new loan or charge account. Beginning Friday, the “thaw” will be free as well.

Instructions for how to place a credit security freeze are on the Attorney General’s website.  

Stenehjem noted that even with a credit freeze, credit information can still be released to existing creditors or collection agencies. He reassured consumers that a security freeze will not affect or lower a credit score, and they will still be able to order their own credit report, even with a security freeze in place.

The federal law overrides North Dakota’s existing law, which had set a $5 fee for each credit freeze and another $5 fee for each temporary thaw.

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