Today’s technology is amazing! We have the ability to pay bills online, make deposits, shop, and share pictures and information with friends and family anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, it has also provided the same benefits to identity thieves who use someone else’s personal financial information to access bank accounts and obtain credit, often destroying the life savings and good credit history of innocent victims.
Identity theft has increased so dramatically that the Federal Trade Commission has listed it as the top fraud-related consumer complaint for the past five years, with consumers reporting millions of dollars lost to fraud.
The “Summit”, is a group that includes IRS, state tax authorities, and tax industry firms that work in a collaborative effort to protect taxpayers from identity theft tax fraud. They have put new procedures into place that will take effect during the upcoming 2016 tax filing season.
Software providers will enhance identity requirements and strengthen validation procedures for new and returning customers to protect against account takeover by criminals. These will include: a) new password standards to access tax software that will require a minimum of eight characters with upper case, lower case, alpha, numerical and special characters; b) new timed lockout feature and limited unsuccessful log-in attempts; c) the addition of three security questions; and d) “out-of-band” verification for email addresses, which is sending an email or text to the customer with a PIN. These enhancements will be the most visible to taxpayers in 2016.
MAINE CREDIT FREEZE FACT SHEET
You now have added free protection under the law to prevent identity theft by placing a credit freeze for free on your credit report with the three major credit reporting agencies.
Attorney General Janet Mills strongly encourages all consumers to take advantage of this benefit, which went into effect on October 15, 2015. A credit freeze will prevent unauthorized parties from accessing your credit report unless you give them specific permission. A current lender can access your report information for the purposes of account maintenance, monitoring credit line increases and account upgrades and enhancements.
Locking down your credit will not impact your credit score.
You can place a freeze with the three credit reporting agencies via their website, telephone or by letter. Telephone calls and website requests are the quickest way to file the freeze. It takes approximately 5-10 minutes per agency to place a freeze this way. You will be asked to provide personal information, such as your social security number (SSN), date of birth, partial address, and zip code.
To request the freeze in writing, you will need to provide a letter with the information mentioned in the previous paragraph, your full name, signature, current street address, any addresses where you have lived during the past two years, a copy of an official photo government ID, and a copy of a recent utility bill.
Equifax: 1-800-349-9960; https://www.freeze.equifax.com ; Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian; 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/freeze/center.html; PO Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
Transunion: 1-888-9090-8872; www.transunion.com/securityfreeze; PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
In all cases, the credit reporting agency will follow up with you in writing, confirming placement of the file freeze and providing you with a personal identification number or PIN. A PIN is used to temporarily unfreeze your credit file for a specific period of time or for a specific creditor, or to permanently unfreeze your credit file.
Consider placing freezes on the accounts of your children too. If their SSN gets in the wrong hands, someone could attempt to open credit in their name. If successful, they become the victims of identity theft. You can also place a freeze on a minors file; however, a credit reporting agency can charge $10 to create a file if one does not already exist. The freeze can be placed for free. Currently, Equifax is creating files for free.
A credit freeze cannot protect you from fraudulent credit or debit charges. Regularly review your statements from credit card companies and your health care providers to catch any errant charges and dispute them promptly.
If you should have any questions, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Information & Mediation Service at 1-800-436-2131 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you believe that you have become a victim of identity theft, you must act immediately to minimize the damage and secure your legal rights. It can be a frustrating and time consuming battle, but resources exist to help you. You can find all the detailed steps to take on the following website : www.maine.gov/ag/privacy/index.shtml