With all the breaches that merchants have reported over the years, many consumers have wanted to freeze their credit but have had to pay to do this. A credit freeze is the only law-based way to ensure your credit is locked down and loans or other services (phones, utilities) where a vendor uses credit bureaus to approve you are not fraudulently issued in your name. Freezes typically do not affect your ability to open checking and savings accounts, and it’s very easy to “thaw” or temporarily release your freeze when you want to get a loan.
Effective September 21, 2018, a new federal law makes credit freezes free to consumers. Under the new law:
- Each of the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) will freeze a consumer’s credit at no charge and provide each consumer with a PIN to “thaw” when needed.
- Consumers can freeze their children’s (under the age of 16) credit to protect their information until their children are ready to use it.
- Fraud alerts will be extended from 90 days to 1 year to provide notice to consumers before credit is issued. However, there is no legal obligation for creditors to provide notice, so these alerts are not as secure as a freeze.
Some of the credit bureaus may offer their “security lock” or other service provided by them, but this may not be as secure as a freeze and they may change the terms of the service. The only law-based way to secure your credit is with a credit freeze. Learn more here