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Attorney General Kilmartin Announces New Protection for Elders from ID Theft and Fraud for Elders

Enhances RI's Law Prohibiting Credit Reporting Agencies from Charging Fees for Credit Freezes

One of the biggest fears of loved ones of elderly relatives is the prospect of that relative being a victim of financial exploitation, identity theft or fraud. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is making sure Rhode Islanders are aware of a new federal law that lets some financial caregivers request a security freeze on behalf of a loved one.

Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for others to open new accounts in another person's name. Starting Sept. 21, 2018, all consumers can freeze and unfreeze their credit file for free for one year.

The new law also lets people with certain legal authority to act on someone else's behalf to freeze and unfreeze their credit file. The new law defines a "protected consumer" as an incapacitated person, someone with an appointed guardian or conservator, or a child under the age of 16.

"Many instances of financial exploitation include a person opening up credit cards or using the credit file of another for personal gain and identity theft. This added layer of protection will allow a guardian or financial caregiver the ability better safeguard the older person from being taken advantage of by a stranger or even someone they know and thought they could trust," said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.

If you're acting on behalf of a protected consumer, you must give the credit reporting agencies proof of authority before you can freeze and unfreeze the protected consumer's credit. Proof of authority includes:

• A court order (such as an order naming you guardian or conservator)

• A valid power of attorney

• Proof of your identity, which can be your Social Security card, your birth certificate, or your driver's license or other government issued identification.

How does the freeze work?

• Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies—Equifax , Experian , and TransUnion.

• If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day.

• If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour.

• If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request.

The new federal law enhances Rhode Island's existing law that prohibits consumer reporting agencies from charging consumers a fee for a credit freeze.

Filed at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin and enacted earlier this year, the Rhode Island law eliminates a provision of existing law that allows reporting agencies to charge up to $10 to consumers who ask for a credit freeze, also known as a security freeze.

The legislation, which the sponsors introduced on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, stems from the Equifax security breach last year during which the credit info of 143 million Americans was exposed. Initially, Equifax was charging consumers who asked for a credit freeze to protect themselves from its own security breach, although it stopped after public outcry and pressure from numerous attorneys general.

At the time the law was enacted, Attorney General Kilmartin said, "This is a big victory for Rhode Island consumers, giving them greater control over who can access their personal and financial information. Credit bureaus make money from selling our personal information to third parties. They should not be able to profit off consumers who decide to take control over who has access to their personal data."

If you believe you or an older relative has been a victim of financial exploitation, please contact your local police department, the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs, or the Elder Abuse Unit at the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General.

If you would like an investigator at the Elder Abuse Unit or an investigator with the Consumer Protection Unit to speak with your organization on the signs of elder abuse or how to protect from being a victim of a scam, please contact Mickaela Driscoll, Elder Abuse Investigator, or Martha Crippen, Director of the Consumer Protection Unit, by calling 401-274-4400.

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