Protect Your Credit: Get a Free Freeze

Credit on ice

Under the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, credit freezes are free of charge to anybody, regardless of whether or not they are victims of identity theft. This new law requires credit-reporting agencies to eliminate the cost of credit freezes, credit unfreezes (thaws) and yearlong fraud alerts to consumers.

Website Required:  The three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian must design a website, where consumers can go to request this credit protection. The sites must also provide the ability to opt-out of receiving solicitations in the mail for insurance or credit card approval.

Protection for Children: The act allows guardians to request on behalf of children younger than 16 years old to freeze their credit.

Military Credit Offers: Members of the military with access to active duty alerts can request to remove their name from prescreened credit card offers for two years.


Why Should You Consider a Credit Freeze?

Identity theft is a type of fraud, which can be extremely detrimental to your financial and personal well-being. Identity theft often occurs when a bad actor gets access to your social security number or financial account number. Many consumers believe they won’t become targets for identity theft, because:

  • They odds are slim and assume it won’t happen to them.
  • They don’t have much money in their bank accounts to steal.
  • They don’t have credit cards and assume this means they don’t have a credit history.
  • They don’t have a poor credit history and believe a scammer will not benefit from having their information.

These arguments do NOT prevent bad actors from opening accounts using your information. The main concern is not the money you have but whether new accounts can be open without your knowledge, or consent.


Protect Your Credit

Issuing a credit freeze essentially stops any credit-reporting agency from reporting your credit score or credit report to a lender. Credit reports help lenders decide whether or not to extend a line of credit or grant loans to consumers. Often, without the ability to see the credit report, lenders will deny the credit line or loan, therefore protecting the consumer from unwanted accounts in their name.

Concerned that you may seek a line of credit in the future?—The thaw can help with that. You can contact the company before you plan to take on a new line of credit and lift the freeze temporarily.

The credit freeze is the best line of defense against bad actors stealing your information and using it for their own financial gain. Now that this process is free, anyone can consider placing a credit freeze on their account!

For more information about credit freezes or credit fraud alerts, visit FTC.gov or call our consumer helpline at 1-800-649-2424.

Contributing Writer: Alexandra Esposito

Sources:  The Federal Trade Commission

Vermonter of the Month: Lawyers Fighting Hunger

T.J. Donovan collects food itemsThis is a monthly series in which the Attorney General will feature a Vermonter doing exemplary work in their community. Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.

For our September Vermonter of the Month, we are honoring all of those who donated to this year’s 2nd Annual “Lawyers Fighting Hunger” food drive. This collaboration with the Vermont Foodbank and the Vermont Bar Association raised over $12,700 and more than 3,000 shelf-stable, non-perishable food items in just two-weeks. We are proud to reaffirm our commitment to serving our community of Vermonters.

A recent study by the Vermont Foodbank and Feeding America shows that one in four Vermonters (around 153,000 people) turn to food shelves and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families.  These numbers include an estimated 33,900 children and 26,010 seniors. All food and funds collected during this year’s food drive went directly to the Vermont Foodbank and over two hundred Vermont Foodbank-partner food shelves and meal sites around Vermont.

For our September Vermonter of the Month we thank the twenty-six law firms and law offices that participated and made this year’s drive a success:

Bergeron, Paradis & Fitzpatrick, LLP

Biggam, Fox, Skinner, L.L.P.

Bradley D. Myerson Law Offices

Decato Law Office

Downs, Rachlin and Martin P.L.L.C.

Gravel and Shea P.C.

Langrock, Sperry and Wool L.L.P.

Maley and Maley, P.L.L.C.

Massucco Law Office P.C.

McNeil, Leddy and Sheahan P.C.

Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Paul, Frank and Collins P.C.

Primmer, Piper, Eggleston and Cramer, P.C.

Robert Appel, Attorney at Law, P.L.C.

Ronan Law Group, PLLC

Sheehey, Furlong and Behm, P.C.

Stitzel, Page and Fletcher P.C.

U.S. District Court/U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Vermont Bar Association

Vermont Department of Financial Regulation

Vermont Legal Aid (Burlington)

Vermont Legal Aid (Rutland)

Vermont Public Utility Commission

Vermont Trial Lawyers Association

Welford & Sawyer

Winburn Law Offices

Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.

TJ Donovan and Keely Marie

Lawyers Fighting Hunger Food Drive

Brad Traverse and TJ Donovan

Scam Awareness Tips When Disaster Hits

As a state, we learned about the importance of storm preparedness in the wake of Irene.  We are fortunate not to experience such disaster regularly.  We express heartfelt concern for those devastated by the effects of Tropical Depression Florence.  Though miles away from our homes in Vermont, such storms can still impact us indirectly.  Vermonters may want to donate to charitable storm relief efforts, for example.

Emergency Response

For National Preparedness Month, and in the wake of an unfortunate disaster, we’re reminding folks to include the following scam tips in your disaster preparedness toolbox:

  • Fake Charity Calls. Scammers prey on the vulnerability of people who want to help after a terrible disaster. Such scammers will pretend to be a charity, asking for donations. They may look legitimate, having a website or social media page (Facebook, Go Fund Me, etc.), or have instructions to text donations to a certain number.
  • Fake Clean-up/Repair Crew. After a storm hits, some illegitimate salespeople may knock on doors and offer to provide cleanup or repair services.
    • Tip: Always check out a business before engaging their services.  Ask for references and ask your friends for referrals.  Get contracts in writing.  Never offer upfront payment!
  • Fake Relief. FEMA scams may make rounds, where callers or door-to-door “inspectors” claim they are from the agency, offering help.  They may phish for your personal information or require payment from you to log your information.
    • Tip: Don’t pay anyone claiming to be from a disaster relief agency!  Don’t give out your information to unknown callers.  If you are seeking governmental assistance, go directly to the source.

We hope your friends and loved ones are safe and well.  If you or anyone you know has engaged with a scam, please contact the Consumer Assistance Program ago.vermont/gov/cap.

Vermonter of the Month: Kiran Waqar

This is a monthly series in which the Attorney General will feature a Vermonter doing exemplary work in their community. Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.

Kiran Waqar

Advocate. Volunteer. Mentor. Organizer. Poet. These are just a few ways one can describe Kiran Waqar, our August Vermonter of the Month.

Kiran’s commitment to community service began while in the tenth grade, when she organized a blanket drive benefiting Syrian refugees. While Kiran’s accomplishments since then are too numerous to list, her dedication to service and social justice—as a creator of the slam poetry group Muslim Girls Making Change—is inspiring generations of Vermonters; leaving many of us asking, “What can I do to make a change in my community?

Our office had the pleasure of meeting Kiran when she served as an intern with the Vermont Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit in 2017. During which time, she came up with the concept of Vermonter of the Month “as a way to engage with all sorts of Vermonters.”  In relaying her vision, she shared that “By choosing numerous types of Vermonters with varied achievements you can reach out to a diverse group. I thought that was important.”  While celebrating the one-year anniversary of Vermonter of the Month, we are so delighted to be recognizing its esteemed creator as our August honoree!

Kiran recently graduated from South Burlington High School and will be studying International Studies at American University this fall. We sat down with her earlier this month to talk about her plans for the future and thank her for all that she has done, and continues to do, for Vermonters.

What motivated you to become and advocate, and continues to inspire you today?

I’m motivated to advocate because I have the ability to do so. As the daughter of two immigrants from Pakistan, I grew up with a global perspective. I also grew up knowing the privileges I have as an American citizen. Knowing this, it seemed obvious to me to use the privileges that came with my identity to try to make a larger impact. I also am aware of my identity as a Muslim woman, particularly as one who chooses to wear the hijab. Taking up space is important for me as my identity is constantly being mischaracterized. Something that keeps me going is thinking about if I didn’t share my story, who would?

You’ll be leaving Vermont soon for college, what are you going to miss the most?

Probably the community I’ve found here. I’m going to miss my slam (poetry) family, my friends, my family, my mosque, and everyone who supported Muslim Girls Making Change in so many ways. I’m going to miss long car rides with my fellow poets, the amazing conversations with people post performance, and the joy of seeing new poets take stage. I’m especially going to miss Maglianero Cafe where our poetry journey started and Young Writers Project that fostered and supported it along the way.

What advice do you have for other Vermonters, young and old, hoping to make an impact on their communities?

I would say that every single person can make an impact and that it doesn’t have to be big to be effective. The smallest acts can have large effects and you never really know how you’re going to impact someone. Just being there and speaking your truth can touch someone in ways you don’t know, so I would say be authentic. Don’t try to censor yourself or cater yourself to the audience. It’s most important that you be whatever is most honest for you because you never know who needs to see that.

Kiran Waqar and TJ Donovan

Kiran WaqarKiran Waqar, Ted Hobson, Charity Clark and Chester

Back to School Shopping

August marks the close of the summer with school days just around the corner.Backpack on to school  For many, this means a lot of shopping must be done. From school supplies to sizing-up clothes, it’s back to school and retail shopping season.  Whether you shop in store or online, we hope to provide you with some helpful information to shop smart.

With the click of a mouse and the ability to shop late at night, online shopping is often thought of as easy.  We can shop online while in our pajamas, but the lax nature of online shopping can leave us open to be less aware of our purchasing decisions.  Before you buy online, we suggest that you explore the site and do some research.

mobile shopping

  • Review and take screen captures of the return policy and save them in a folder on your computer—just in case you have to return something later.  
  • Check out online reviews by typing in the name of the business and “complaints” to learn about others’ experiences.  

Countless times we have heard consumers say, “I would not have bought from this site, if I had read the reviews.” Reviews are telling of consumer experience, letting people know if they received the product they ordered and if they were satisfied.  Review sites can be helpful for both online and brick-and-mortar stores.  Use sites like the Better Business Bureau and Yelp to get more information before you buy.

retail clothesDid you know that retail supports more than 95,000 jobs and contributes more than 4.9 billion to the Vermont’s economy?  Or that clothing and footwear are exempt from Vermont sales tax?  If a retail location has a refund policy, they must post it at the point of display, the cash register, or the store entrance.  Don’t assume that just because you purchased something at a physical location you will be able to get a refund! Vermont’s Consumer Protection Rule 106 – Disclosure of Refund Policy informs about what is required of retail locations in disclosing refund policies.  Don’t forget, you can always call CAP at (800) 649-2424, if problems arise.

Happy shopping.  And, don’t forget to enjoy these last few days of summer!

Contributing Writer: Crystal Baldwin

Sources:  National Retail Federation, Vermont Department of Taxes