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CONSUMER ALERT

Free Credit Freezes Available Beginning September 21, 2018

As of September 21, 2018, the three major credit reporting agencies are required to offer consumers free credit freezes as the result of a federal law enacted earlier this year.   The law also allows parents or guardians of children under 16 years old to freeze a child's credit file at no charge.  In addition, it requires the three major credit reporting agencies to offer free electronic credit monitoring services to active duty military personnel.  Under the new law, fraud alerts, which require the credit reporting bureaus to verify your identity before releasing information, will remain in place for a year.  Alerts previously remained in place for 90 days before they had to be renewed.  Prior to the new law, whether consumers had to pay to install or lift a credit freeze varied by state.

A credit freeze (also called a security freeze) restricts access to your credit file, making it difficult or impossible for identity thieves or others to open an account or borrow money in your name using breached or stolen information.  A freeze prevents lenders and creditors from accessing your credit files to review your history and, as a result, prevents new credit from being opened in your name, unless you authorize the credit reporting agencies to lift the freeze and allow access.  You will have to temporarily or permanently lift or "thaw" the freeze if you are applying for a loan or a credit card.  Lifting a freeze is also now free.  Many consumer advocates and security experts recommend credit freezes as one of the best ways to protect your credit information from fraud and prevent identity theft.

The procedures for obtaining a freeze are different for each of the three credit reporting agencies, and for a freeze to work you must place one with each of the three agencies. Consumers should visit their websites to learn details about how to freeze your file:

You can also call each agency (Equifax, 800-349-9960; Experian, 888-397-3742; TransUnion, 888-909-8872) to place the freeze.

In response to the 2017 Equifax data breach, the Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued a regulation – recently made final -- that requires consumer credit reporting agencies to register with DFS, comply with New York's separate first-in-the-nation cybersecurity regulation, subjects the agencies to examinations by DFS, and prohibits them from engaging in certain conduct, including unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, misrepresenting or omitting any material information in a credit report, or failing to comply with the provisions of federal law relating to the accuracy of the information in any consumer report.

For more information about credit freezes and other measures you can take to protect your credit files, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information Credit Freeze FAQs

Updated 09/26/2018

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