What to Know
- Consumers can freeze their credit file with TransUnion, Experian and Equifax without paying any fees.
- The bill extends fraud alerts on credit reports from 90 days to one year.
- Parents can freeze credit on behalf of their children under the age of 16.
Credit freezes and unfreezes with the three major credit reporting agencies will now be free for consumers as a federal law passed in response to the Equifax data breach goes into effect Friday.
Beginning Sept. 21, consumers can freeze their credit file with TransUnion, Experian and Equifax without paying any fees. Credit freezes helps prevent identity thieves from opening lines of credit or taking out loans in your name because lenders can't access your credit score or report.
Only a handful of states had laws in place prohibiting credit bureaus from charging consumers a fee for freezing and unfreezing their credit report.
The nationwide free-freeze provision was included in a larger bill rolling back banking rules that were enacted to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis that brought millions of lost jobs and foreclosed homes. Congress voted in May to dismantle parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation, a move that critics argue will increase the likelihood of future taxpayer bailouts.
The bill also allows parents to freeze credit on behalf of their children under the age of 16 and extends free fraud alerts from 90 days to one year. Fraud alerts are placed on credit files to inform lenders that a consumer may be a victim of identity theft, requiring businesses to take extra steps to verify the consumer's identification before extending credit.
Credit bureaus will be required to freeze an account within one business day of a request made over the phone or online, and within three business days of an application received through the mail.
More than 140 million people in the U.S. were affected by a data breach at Equifax in 2017. Hackers stole data that included customers' names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses and some driver's licenses numbers, CNBC reported. The breach remains the largest exposure of personal information in history, according to The Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.