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On the day that a new federal law eliminates consumer fees to freeze and thaw credit reports, a group of Colorado legislators and consumer advocates gathered at the Capitol to encourage Coloradans to take advantage of free credit freezes and protect themselves against identity thieves. According to CoPIRG, credit freezes are one of the best ways to stop an identity thief from using your information to set up a new credit card or cell phone account in your name, run up big bills, and leave you to pick up the pieces.
“A credit freeze is the single best action a consumer can take to stop identity thieves from using your personal information to commit fraud but for years consumers were charged fees to protect their information,” said Danny Katz, director of the consumer advocacy group CoPIRG. “The good news is those fees are gone. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Coloradans have not taken this simple action to freeze out identity thieves so we’re here to send a message to everyone – use credit freezes to protect yourself.”
CoPIRG released a guide that provides all the tools consumers need to place credit freezes as well as additional actions consumers should take to prevent identity theft. The key recommendation is to place a credit freeze at the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) as well as the National Consumer Telecommunications & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE). To do this, you can follow the steps in the guide and on their website.
“Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. I know. It happened to me. It is important to be able to act quickly and proactively. I am pleased Congress has made this tool more widely available to consumers,” said Representative Cole Wist (R). Representative Wist is the Assistant Minority Leader and represents house district 37 in Arapahoe County.
“The ability to freeze a credit report will protect consumers of all ages from the threat of identity theft. Children and the developmentally disabled community are especially susceptible as identity theft may not be discovered for years,” said Representative Polly Lawrence (R) who represents house district 39 including parts of Douglas and Teller counties.
"Colorado is being proactive in the area of consumer protection, and today we've taken a big step forward to allow citizens the ability to protect credit information for themselves and their families. While advancing technology has added efficiency and convenience, the opportunity for data breeches has also increased. I hope everyone will take advantage of these new opportunities," said Representative Kim Ransom (R) who represents house district 44 including the cities of Parker and Lone Tree.
"The new federal law making credit freezes free means there's even more reason to take advantage of this simple practice to protect your personal information,” said Representative Mike Weissman (D) who represents house district 36 including the city of Aurora.
Background on credit freezes
A credit freeze blocks a credit card company, a cell phone company, or a lender from viewing your credit report, which shows your credit history. These companies do not traditionally issue new credit to a customer if they cannot see that customer’s credit report or the credit score derived from it. Therefore, by blocking creditors from accessing your credit report, you are stopping identity thieves who apply for new accounts in your name, especially if they have your personal information.
Because creditors run credit checks with any one or a combination of the three big credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), you need to block access to your reports with all three. There have also been reports of fraudulent accounts being opened for cell phones using credit reports provided by the National Consumer Telecommunications & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE). We therefore also recommend freezing your credit report at NCTUE.
Credit freezes do not affect your ability to use existing credit you already have, such as a credit card or loan. Nor do freezes affect your credit score. In fact, freezes help protect your score by preventing your credit from being negatively scored if someone racks up debt in your name.
You can easily remove a freeze or “thaw” your credit report either temporarily or permanently when you want to apply for new credit. If you want to temporarily lift a freeze because you are applying for credit or a job, try to find out which credit bureau the business uses to check credit reports. You can save some time by only lifting your freeze for that credit bureau.
For years Colorado law required credit bureaus to waive the fee to place your initial credit freeze but could then charge Coloradans for thawing and re-freezing their credit reports. Starting today, all fees to freeze or thaw have been eliminated.
The Colorado Attorney General’s office has extensive information and tools on a one-stop website for protecting yourself against all kinds of identity theft. You can also report fraud and sign up for fraud alerts. https://www.stopfraudcolorado.gov/fraud-center/identity-theft.html
In the 2018 General Assembly, a number of lawmakers came together to combat identity theft and protect consumers. Representatives Wist and Bridges, and Senators Court and Lambert sponsored HB18-1128, which requires companies to notify Colorado consumers within 30 days of determining a data breach occurred. Speaker Duran, Representatives Lawrence and Ransom, and Senators Fenberg and Gardner sponsored a set of bills that ultimately became HB18-1233, which eliminated credit freezes for minors.
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