The Maryland Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) went into effect in January 2008. The law requires any business that keeps electronic records containing the personal identifying information of Maryland residents to notify those residents if their information is compromised. A security breach can occur when a company's website is hacked, a computer is stolen, or data tapes are lost in the mail. Notifying consumers of the breach will allow them to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft that may result from someone obtaining their personal information.
What to do if you receive a security breach notification in the mail:
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit report. Call one of the three credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit report, and request a free copy of your credit report. A fraud alert lasts one year, after which you can renew it by calling the credit reporting agency again. Once you place the fraud alert with one of the three agencies, they will alert the other two.
2. Monitor your credit report. The best way to catch identity theft early is to frequently view your credit report. Through the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are already entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies each year by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Maryland residents are entitled to one additional free credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, but you must you must contact each of the agencies individually to request a second report:
This means you can view your credit report a total of six times per year to look for anything out of the ordinary. If you find accounts that you did not open, or collection notices for charges you did not incur, you may be a victim of fraud.
3. If your bank or credit card information is compromised, immediately call your bank or credit card issuer and change your account numbers. Ask that they send you new cards with new numbers.
4. Place a “freeze" on your credit report. A “credit freeze," also known as a “security freeze," completely blocks the information on your credit report from would-be creditors. A credit freeze can help prevent identity theft. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer's credit history. If your credit files are frozen, even someone who has your name and Social Security number might not be able to get credit in your name. Federal law guarantees that everyone is able to freeze and thaw their credit reports for free. While a credit freeze can provide important protection against identity theft, a credit freeze may not be for everyone. If you plan to open credit in the near future, or apply for an apartment or a job that will require your credit report to be checked, you will need to temporarily lift the freeze.
To place a credit freeze, send a request to each of the three credit reporting agencies. See sample letters to each of the three credit reporting agencies for your reference below. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Identity Theft Unit at (410) 576-6574.
Equifax Security Freeze P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348
Sample Equifax Security Freeze letter
Equifax Credit Freeze Form
Experian Security Freeze P. O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Sample Experian Security Freeze letter
TransUnion Security Freeze P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Sample TransUnion Security Freeze letter
You can also find more information about each credit reporting agency's freeze program at their websites:
Guidelines for Security Breach Notifications
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / En español 410-230-1712 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TTY: Dial 7-1-1 or 800-735-2258