Washington, DC – The beginning of the holiday shopping season has raised concerns about identity theft and the role of security freezes, an important tool for protecting critical personal information. A recent report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that older consumers are largely unaware of the existence of this protection, and would be more likely to take advantage of security freezes if the process of placing and using the freeze were easier and less costly.
A security freeze requires the three consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to block access to a consumer's credit information and score without the consumer's express consent or authorization. Security freezes, when placed at all three consumer reporting agencies, can stop identity thieves from fraudulently opening new lines of credit and bank accounts.
The AARP study found that 81 percent of older consumers are concerned about becoming a victim of identity theft, but only 31 percent had ever read or heard about a security freeze and only 2 percent could identify the name of this service.
“Older Americans are systematically victimized by unscrupulous individuals,” said Susan Reinhard, Senior Managing Director of Public Policy. “We’ve all learned the tips and tricks of protecting our wallets or purses when we’re out shopping, but with online shopping becoming popular and thieves finding new ways to take what’s most precious to us we have to be diligent about safeguarding ourselves.”
While more than half of those surveyed felt that it would not be easy to place a security freeze, the benefits and peace of mind far outweigh the costs or inconvenience associated with placing a security freeze. AARP continues to work at the state and federal levels to make security freezes more accessible to all Americans.
“Numerous states have taken action to require that security freezes be made available. We appreciate the initial steps taken by the credit reporting agencies to respond to these laws, but clearly, more action is needed. We firmly believe this is something all consumers should know about and have the option to use,” said Reinhard.
AARP has developed a dedicated web page about security freezes for consumers to learn more. For more information visit http://www.aarp.org/securityfreeze.