Federal Trade Commission staff is seeking comments on the impact and effectiveness of credit freezes as part of a multi-pronged approach to combat identity theft.
Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws providing consumers the right to place credit freezes, and each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (“CRAs”) is offering a commercially-developed credit freeze option. In general, once a consumer initiates a credit freeze with a CRA, the freeze prevents that CRA from releasing a consumer report (i.e., a credit report) about that consumer unless the consumer temporarily lifts or permanently removes the freeze. A credit freeze may help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in consumers’ names, because businesses typically will not extend new credit (or provide certain other benefits) without first viewing the consumer’s credit report.
In April 2007, the President’s Identity Theft Task Force (“Task Force”) issued a strategic plan to make the federal governments effort’s more effective and efficient in the areas of identity theft awareness, prevention, detection, and prosecution, www.idtheft.gov/reports/StrategicPlan.pdf. As part of its strategic plan, the Task Force recommended that the FTC, with support from the Task Force member agencies, assess the impact and effectiveness of credit freeze laws and report on the results, in order to assist policymakers in considering the appropriateness of a federal credit freeze law.
Commission staff invites interested parties to submit written comments on the impact and effectiveness of state credit freeze laws, as well as the credit freeze options offered by the nationwide consumer reporting agencies. Comments must be received on or before February 25, 2008. For detailed information on how to submit comments and the specific questions and topics FTC staff would like addressed in the comments, please see: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/freeze.pdf.