The Iowa Identity Theft Victim Assistance Coalition is urging Iowans to consider using a new state law effective July 1 that permits consumers to 'freeze' their credit reports at no cost.

“This is a really big deal for consumers,” said Bill Brauch, Director of the new Coalition. “Before this new law, Iowans had to pay each of the three major credit reporting agencies $10 to freeze their credit reports and another $12 to temporarily suspend the freeze if they wished to apply for credit, for a total of $66.00.”

Iowa’s law also permitted companies to each charge up to $10 for permanently removing a credit freeze. The new law does away with all those fees and permits any Iowan to place, suspend or remove a credit freeze at no charge.

Often called a 'credit security freeze', the effect is to bar new creditors from seeing your credit report and credit score. Consumers may want to freeze their credit reports for several reasons, including to prevent someone else from applying for credit cards or loans in their names. Placing a credit freeze also helps prevent others from using a consumer’s name to apply for a job or rent a home or apartment.

Brauch, who served as an assistant Iowa attorney general for 28 years and retired three years ago after 20 years as Director of the Consumer Protection Division added, “The core purpose of placing a credit freeze is to prevent identity theft. Before this new law, you had to become a victim of identity theft to freeze your credit at no charge. That’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s no longer permitted.”

Iowa’s new law is similar to a new federal law that will become effective later this year. “The new federal law is good,” Brauch said, "but Iowa’s new law is effective now.”

Brauch also noted, though, that freezing your credit doesn’t prevent all forms of identity fraud.

“Even if a credit freeze is in place, scam artists may still try to make charges on your existing accounts so you still have to check your credit card bills closely every month,” Brauch said. Freezing your credit also doesn’t stop credit card offers from coming in the mail.

Consumers who freeze their credit reports but later wish to apply for credit will have to contact the credit reporting agencies in order to lift the credit freezes. “But this, too, is now free to consumers,” Brauch said.

The Iowa Identity Theft Victim Assistance Coalition, formed earlier this year, is a consortium of 18 different public, private, and non-profit service providers who, in part, assist Iowa victims of identity theft. Its purpose is to improve services and communications across its members. The Coalition was formed through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Justice Assistance Programs, and is as part of the National Identity Theft Victim Assistance Network overseen by the Department of Justice. The grant establishing the Iowa Coalition was made to the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, a non-profit organization that has been active since 1983 in advocating for the rights of Iowa crime victims.

The members of the Iowa Identity Theft Victim Assistance Coalition in addition to the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance include:

• AARP Iowa • Children and Families of Iowa • Iowa Attorney General’s Office – Consumer Protection Division

• Iowa Attorney General’s Office – Crime Victim Assistance Division • Iowa Bankers Association • Iowa County Attorneys Association

• Iowa Credit Union Foundation • Iowa Department of Corrections - Office of Victim and Restorative Justice Programs

• Iowa Department of Transportation • Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs • Iowa Insurance Division • Iowa Legal Aid

• Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer • Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association • Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

• United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa • University of Northern Iowa

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