Credit freeze is now free un­der new law

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - People On The Move - By Sarah Skid­more Sell As­so­ci­ated Press

A credit freeze re­stricts ac­cess to your credit file, essen­tially halt­ing any­one from open­ing new credit in your name.

Con­sumers can now freeze their credit for free un­der a new fed­eral law.

A credit freeze re­stricts ac­cess to your credit file, essen­tially halt­ing any­one from open­ing any new credit in your name. The rules used to vary by state, but pre­vi­ously it could cost up to $10 to put a freeze in place. That fee of­ten had to be paid again when some­one wanted to un­freeze it for any le­git­i­mate uses. But un­der a new law that started Fri­day, con­sumers can do so quickly and for free.

Congress passed the law in re­sponse to last year’s mas­sive Equifax hack, which ex­posed the pri­vate in­for­ma­tion of more than 145 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed it into law in May.

The law re­quires that credit freezes be free for con­sumers across the coun­try. If the re­quest is made over the phone or on­line, the freeze must be com­pleted within a day. If the re­quest is made by mail, within three days of re­ceiv­ing the re­quest.

Lift­ing the freeze is also free and must be done within the hour if the re­quest was made by phone or on­line; three days if by mail.

Con­sumers who want to freeze their credit should visit the web­sites of all three credit re­port­ing agen­cies — Equifax, Ex­pe­rian and Tran­sUnion — to make their re­quest at each. The FTC also will have links to those pages on its iden­tity theft in­for­ma­tion web­site: www.iden­ti­tytheft.gov

The law also al­lows for a free credit freeze for chil­dren un­der age 16, some­thing that was not pre­vi­ously al­lowed in all states. This helps pre­vent crim­i­nals from cre­at­ing fraud­u­lent ac­counts un­der a child’s iden­tity.

Still, a credit freeze will not pro­tect you from other forms of iden­tity theft, such as a fraud­u­lent tax re­turn or charges against an ex­ist­ing ac­count.

MATT ROURKE/AP 2015

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