On and after October 20, 2020, Iowa parents whose school districts had contracted with Timberline Billing Service, LLC, an Iowa-based company providing Medicaid billing services, began receiving letters from Timberline informing them that their children's data had been subject to a data breach between February 12, 2020 - March 4, 2020, when an unknown attacker had accessed Timberline’s network and exfiltrated students' personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI) stored in its system before deploying ransomware. On October 30, 2020, Timberline reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the breach had affected the PII and PHI data of 116,131 students.
The Iowa Attorney General's Office provides the following information for parents who are seeking to protect their children's PII and PHI against identity theft:
Credit to Protect It from Identity Theft
Each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) offers consumers the ability to place a “security freeze,” or deny access to, their credit reports. A security freeze means that your credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft because 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 probably will not be able to obtain credit in your name. Placing a security freeze does not affect your credit score – nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
There is NO COST to place or lift a security freeze on your credit reports. There are no joint credit reports. Everyone has their own, which means a couple would need to place six (6) security freezes (3 for one partner and 3 for the other partner at Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Parents may want to consider placing security freezes on credit files for children under age 16 and assisting older children.
How do I place a security freeze?
To place a freeze, you must make a separate request to EACH of the three credit reporting agencies. You must provide identifying information listed below.
Makea request for a security freeze to the address listed above with the following:
- Include name, current and former addresses for the last two years, Social Security number, and date of birth.
- Copy of a utility bill, insurance or bank statement, etc., showing your name and current mailing address.
Make a request for a security freeze to the address listed above with the following:
· Include name, current and former addresses for the last two years, Social Security number, and date of birth. Enclose a copy of a government identification card, such as a driver’s license, state ID card or military ID card.
Copy of a utility bill, insurance or
bank statement, etc., showing your
name and current mailing address.
Make a request for a security freeze to the address listed above with the following:
· Include name, current and former addresses for the last five years, Social Security number, and date of birth.
How long will the security freeze remain on the credit report?
A security freeze will remain until you request its removal.
Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?
Yes, but you have to lift the freeze to obtain a new credit card or loan. You can lift it for a period of time, you can lift it for a specific creditor, or you can lift it permanently. After you send your letter asking for the freeze, each of the credit reporting agencies will send you a Personal Identification Number (PIN). You will also get instructions on how to lift the freeze. There are a variety of ways to lift the freeze (by mail, phone, or Internet) using your PIN. There is no cost for lifting the freeze.
What will a creditor who requests my file see if it is frozen?
A creditor will see a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
Can a creditor get my credit score if my file is frozen?
No. A creditor who requests your file from one of the three credit reporting agencies will only get a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
No. You would have to lift the freeze to allow a background check or to apply for insurance, just as you would to apply for credit. The process for lifting the freeze is described above.
Can I order my own credit report if my file is frozen?
Yes. To obtain a FREE copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months, call toll-free 877-322-8228, or order online at www.AnnualCreditReport.com, or write to P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Please note: A free copy of your credit report does not contain your credit score.
Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
Your credit report can still be released to your existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their behalf. They can use it to review or collect on your account. Other creditors may also use your information to make offers of credit‑unless you opt-out of receiving such offers. See below for how to opt-out of pre‑approved credit offers. Government agencies may have access for collecting child support payments, taxes, or in the course of a legal proceeding.
Does freezing my file mean that I won’t receive pre‑approved credit offers?
No. You can stop the pre‑approved credit offers by calling 888‑567‑8688 or go online at www.optoutprescreen.com. This will stop most of the offers that go through the credit reporting agencies. The opt-out is good for five years or you can make it permanent by returning the Opt-out Election Form which will be provided after you initiate your opt-out request.
Do I have to freeze my file with all three credit reporting agencies?
Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit reporting agencies. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you need a security freeze with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Do I have to lift the security freeze at all three credit reporting agencies?
No. You can ask the potential creditor which credit reporting agency it is going to utilize. Then place a global lift (with a start and end date) or a specific third party lift with that credit reporting agency.
Does my partner’s credit file have to be frozen, too? What about my children?
Yes. Everyone has their own which means a couple would need to place six (6) security freezes (3 for one partner and 3 for the other partner for Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Parents may want to consider placing security freezes on credit files for children under age 16 and assisting older children.
Does a security freeze guarantee that I will not be a victim of identity theft?
No. While a security freeze can help keep an identity thief from opening most new accounts in your name, it will not prevent all types of identity theft (such as; criminal, driver’s license, government benefit, insurance, medical, and Social Security). It will not protect you, for example, from an identity thief who uses your existing credit cards or other accounts. The freeze won’t be able to stop fraudulent activity that has already taken place before the security freeze was initiated. While a security freeze may not be able to protect you in these kinds of cases, it can protect you from the vast majority of identity thefts that involve opening new lines of credit.
If you have complaints or questions, contact our office:
Iowa Attorney General's Office
Consumer Protection Division
1305 East Walnut Street, 2nd Floor
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Letter sent Certified with a Return Receipt Requested
[Name of Creditor]
Attention: Disputes and Billing Inquiries
[City, State, Zip Code]
RE: [Your Account Number]
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute a billing error in the amount of [$______] on my account. The amount is inaccurate because [describe the problem]. I am requesting that the error be corrected, that any finance and other charges related to the disputed amount be credited as well, and that I receive an accurate statement.
Enclosed are copies of [use this sentence to describe any information you are enclosing, like sales slips or payment records] supporting my position. Please investigate this matter and correct the billing error as soon as possible.
[Cell Phone & Email Address]
Report Identity Theft and Get a Recovery Plan
On the Federal Trade Commission’s website: www.IdentityTheft.gov, you can click on “Get Started” to make an identity theft report and receive a recovery plan or you can click on “or browse recovery steps” to get information about special forms of identity theft such as income tax, child, medical and others, scroll to the bottom of the webpage.