NEW: You can freeze your credit reports for free now

Friday, September 21, 2018

 

As of Sept. 21, consumers nationwide can freeze their credit file and place one-year fraud alerts for free. Under a new federal law, consumers in states where the credit bureaus previously charged fees for freezing consumers' credit files will no longer have to pay to do so.

A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, restricts access to your credit files, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. The new law also allows parents to place free freezes for their under-16 children. Guardians, conservators and others with a valid power of attorney can get a free freeze for their dependents.

In addition, the new law extends the duration of initial fraud alerts on your credit report from 90 days to one year. A fraud alert requires businesses that check your credit to take extra precautions before opening a new account. (A security freeze makes your credit file inaccessible to anyone you haven't provided access to, essentially ensuring that new accounts can't be opened without your approval.)

To place a credit freeze on your reports, contact all three nationwide credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. (Click here for contact information.) Whether you ask for a freeze online or by phone, the credit bureaus must put the freeze in place within one business day. When you want to lift the freeze by phone or online, the credit bureaus must take that action within one hour of your request. (If you make your request by mail, credit bureaus must place or lift the freeze within three business days of receiving your written request.)

To place a fraud alert, you only need to contact one of the three credit bureaus—it must notify the other two bureaus.

 

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