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New law makes credit freezes free, fraud alerts yearlong

Concerned about ID theft? Experts say that freezing your credit report can help prevent becoming a victim. A freeze can make it harder for thieves to open accounts in your name.

Until now, some consumers had to pay for credit freezes. But starting today, under the new Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit report for free with the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You must contact each agency individually to do so.

If you ask for a freeze online or by phone, the credit reporting agency must have the freeze in place within one business day. When you want to lift the freeze, it has to be done within one hour unless the request is made by mail which will take three business days. The law allows parents to freeze kids credit for free if they are under the age of 16 years-old. Guardians, conservators and those with a valid power of attorney can get a free freeze for their dependents.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that if you have a freeze on your file, it does not keep certain creditors of accounts you currently hold, government entities or credit monitoring companies you have hired from seeing your file. Other credit reporting companies like employment or tenant screening companies might charge a fee to place and lift a security freeze depending on the laws in your state.

Law extends initial fraud alerts

There are two main types of fraud alerts: initial fraud alerts and extended fraud alerts. You can place an initial fraud alert on your credit report if you think you are or are about to become a victim of identity theft. Under the new law, credit reporting agencies will keep that alert on your file for one year. The alert expires after one year, and you have the option to place another initial fraud alert at that time. The alert requires a creditor to take reasonable steps to make sure the person making a new credit request in your name is actually you.

Report & recover

If your identity is stolen and you file an identity theft report, you can place an extended alert on your credit report. The alert is good for seven years. In most cases, if you report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission, a federal law enforcement agency, you can use the report in place of a police report. The agency provides tools to help you through the recovery process. Toll-free, no-cost help is also available through the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Victim Assistance Call Center.

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