Starting in September of this year, the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – will be required to let you both freeze and “thaw” your credit file for free as a result of a new bill passed by the Senate in May 2018.
The new law
Under the new law, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion will not only be required to let consumers freeze and “thaw” their credit files free of charge, but also implement procedures that make it easier for consumers to do that.
Current credit freezes cost around $10 (both to freeze and unfreeze your files) if you are not a victim of identity theft. This has to be done with each credit agency. While Equifax has offered free credit freezes since its security breach in 2017, the other two agencies have not. This new law will help you keep your peace of mind without worrying about costs.
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze is a powerful tool that greatly reduces the risk of identity theft. Placing a freeze on your credit means that no one can access your information to fraudulently open a new account in your name. The freeze does not impact your credit score.
That also means that you can’t apply for new lines of credit yourself, unless you lift the freeze using the personal identification number (PIN) you receive with each credit bureau. It’s important to keep track of your PINs, otherwise it may take multiple business days before your credit can be “thawed” while the agency verifies your identity.
How to freeze your credit
Once the law goes into effect in September, you will need to contact each of the credit bureaus:
- Equifax: Call 800-349-9960 or visit the website.
- Experian: Call 888‑397‑3742 or visit the website.
- TransUnion: Call 888-909-8872 or visit the website.
Remember that if you find that you need to lift your credit freeze, you will have to contact all three bureaus again.
Other ways to protect yourself
A credit freeze is just one way to protect your identity. If you want to take some measures prior to September, consider these options:
- Freeze for free with Equifax. Once the new law goes into effect, you can also request that Experian and TransUnion freeze your credit for free as well!
- Place a fraud alert on your accounts. All three credit bureaus offer free fraud alerts on your accounts. Unlike a credit freeze, a fraud alert doesn’t prohibit lenders from obtaining your credit reports. It simply notifies any lenders that you may be the victim of identity theft, and that they should contact you prior to opening an account in your name. This usually means that they’ll reach out via your phone number. Under the new law, fraud alerts will remain on your credit reports for one year. (Previously, they expired after 90 days.)
- Monitor your identity. It’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to your identity. Be sure to continue to regularly check your credit reports for any suspicious or incorrect information.
Did you know? Our Absolute Checking® account has 24/7 identity theft monitoring and resolution service for you and your eligible family members! Get more details on our website.