Recently, more than 3.8 million Hoosiers were affected by a security breach of Equifax, one the nation's largest consumer credit reporting companies. With more and more of these electronic security breaches occurring, along with the threat of credit card skimmers and email phishing scams, it's very important that Hoosiers take steps to protect their identities from criminals. An effective and convenient tool to help you restrict access to your credit reports, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name, is by implementing a security freeze.

A security freeze, also called a credit freeze, is a consumer right provided by Indiana law. Any Indiana resident can request a security freeze, including parents, who are encouraged to freeze their children's credit. This adds an additional layer of protection against identity thieves and fraudsters who target minors. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, kids are 51 times more likely to be the subject of identity theft than adults. Legal guardians can also register adults with mental disabilities. Please note that if your children or those in your care are receiving credit card or other offers in the mail, then this is a red flag that someone might be impersonating them.

When a security freeze is activated, identity thieves cannot take out a new line of credit in your name, even if they have a Social Security number or other personal information, because creditors cannot access your credit report without your permission. It's important to note that placing a freeze will not lower your credit score, and there is no fee to place, temporarily lift, remove or request a new security freeze password or PIN.

To place a security freeze, simply visit on.IN.gov/CreditFreeze. On this website administered by the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, you can freeze your credit with Equifax, Experian and Trans Union through an online process. You can also send a letter by mail to each of the three credit agencies. It's important to freeze your credit with each credit bureau because a freeze with one will not transfer to the others. All of the information you need to better understand what a credit freeze is and the steps for activating a freeze, whether online or by mail, can be found at on.IN.gov/CreditFreeze.

When opening new lines of credit once a freeze has been activated, the freeze can temporarily or permanently be lifted by contacting the credit bureaus. Credit reports can also be obtained while your credit is frozen, and your report can still be released to creditors. Free annual credit reports can be obtained online by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com
Unfortunately, our personal data is very vulnerable. Equifax is just another example of how, even if you avoid online transactions and are very cautious in protecting your identity, many companies with our personal information can be hacked.

Please take steps to help protect yourself and those in your care. For more information about security freezes and to get started, visit www.in.gov/attorneygeneral
Kathy Kreag Richardson is a Republican State Representative from District 29, which includes Noblesville, and has served in the legislature since 1992. She also is the elections administrator for Hamilton County. You may contact her at h29@in.gov.