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Credit Freeze Now an Option for D.C. Residents

Residents of the District of Columbia now have the right to "freeze" their credit reports as a way to ward off identity thieves.

As of July 1, people living in the nation's capital can request a "credit freeze" from the three major credit-reporting bureaus. A freeze directs the bureaus to block access to a consumer's credit report and credit score.

While a freeze does little to stop abuse with accounts already compromised by criminals, it can limit victims' total exposure, saving them the time and expense of clearing new, fraudulent accounts from their records.

D.C. residents will need to file a written request via certified mail with the three bureaus individually, each of which may charge a $10 fee -- although those fees should be waived for residents who have been victimized by identity theft and can provide a police report to that effect. Consumers Union has more information on where to write and what information to include in a credit freeze request.

The credit bureaus are required to act within three business days of receiving a request, and should reply with a personal identification number (PIN) that a consumer can use to unfreeze his or her credit file.

Bear in mind that if you freeze your credit file you will need to plan ahead prior to making any major purchases, or before switching to a new job (a new employer may need to run a credit/background check as a condition of your employment). The credit bureaus are required to honor a credit "thaw" within three business days of receiving the request, which may be made by telephone, fax or over the Internet, depending on the bureau.

The thaw turnaround time will change as of Sept. 1, 2008, when the credit bureaus will be required to temporarily lift a freeze within 15 minutes if a thaw is requested by phone or online.

Read Keith L. Alexander's piece from Sunday's Post: "Consumers Can Block Access to Credit Files."

By Brian Krebs  |  July 2, 2007; 5:21 PM ET
Categories:  Safety Tips  
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