Consumers beware: Identity theft is on the rise in Tennessee, and it’s costing residents. A recent report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows a more than 20% increase of identity theft in the Volunteer State last year as 6,808 Tennesseans reported being a victim of identity theft. Scam artists have preyed on Tennesseans, making the Tennessee the 21st in the nation for reports of identity theft.
To help protect consumers, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) is reminding residents of recent credit freeze laws that can help “freeze out” scammers in the event that a swindler ever compromises a consumer’s identity or the identity of a consumer’s dependent.
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, is a free tool that allows consumers to restrict access to their credit reports, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts. In 2017, Tennessee lawmakers passed a law giving parents and guardians the right to freeze the credit of a minor under 16 years of age or an incapacitated person under the care of a guardian or conservator at no charge. The federal government has since passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act granting free credit freezes to consumers and their dependents.
“A credit freeze can prevent an unscrupulous individual from opening new lines of credit in your name or the name of your child,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “These recently enacted laws make credit freezes free for consumers and their dependents. We encourage consumers to learn the red flags associated with scammers and avoid their tricks and traps. However, if a consumer’s identity or the identity of a consumer’s dependent is ever compromised, they should enact a credit freeze.
KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT CREDIT FREEZES
• A credit freeze does not affect your credit score.
• Even under a credit freeze, your credit report can be released to existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf.
• Credit freezes do not prevent government agencies from accessing your credit report in response to a court or administrative order, subpoena, or a search warrant.
• A credit freeze is not a fraud alert. A fraud alert requires that a business notify you, often by phone, to verify that you are the person making a credit request.
• You can still receive your free annual credit report even if you have a freeze in place.
• Credit freezes do not impede you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance.
• It’s free to place and lift a credit freeze.
• Credit freezes do not prevent thieves from making charges to your existing accounts. You must still monitor all bank, credit card, and insurance statements for fraudulent activity.
HOW TO PLACE A CREDIT FREEZE
Contact each of the nationwide credit bureaus:
You’ll need to provide each agency with your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal identifiable information. After requesting the freeze, you will be given a PIN or password that will be used to lift the freeze. Keep this number in a safe location.
For more information on preventing or recovering from identity theft, visit indetitytheft.gov or tn.gov/consumer.