AUBURN, Ala. – Starting in September, a new federal law will give consumers free credit freezes and yearlong fraud alerts.
According to Sharlean Briggs, an Alabama Extension regional agent in human sciences, family resource management and workforce development, here’s what to look forward to when the law takes effect on Sept. 21:
Free Credit Freezes
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Usually you get a PIN to use each time you want to freeze and unfreeze your account to apply for new credit.
Currently, credit freezes may involve fees based on state law. Starting this fall, it will be free to freeze and unfreeze your credit file throughout the country.
Free Child Credit Freezes
As a part of the law, a child’s credit freeze allows you to freeze a child’s credit file until the child is old enough to use credit. Currently, some state laws allow you to freeze a child’s credit file. Starting Sept. 21, no matter where you live, you’ll be able to get a free credit freeze for children under age 16.
Yearlong Fraud Alerts
A fraud alert will tell any business that runs your credit that they should check with you before opening a new account. Currently, fraud alerts last 90 days. Starting this fall, an initial fraud alert will last for one year. It will still be free and identity theft victims can still get an extended fraud alert for seven years.
The new law has a long name – Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act – but the outcome is simple. When the law takes effect in September, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion must each set up a webpage for requesting fraud alerts and credit freezes. The Federal Trade Commission will also post links to those webpages on IdentityTheft.gov.
If you’re in the military, within a year, credit reporting agencies must offer free electronic credit monitoring to all active duty military.
To stay tuned about this law, and get other tips, sign up for the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information Updates.