Why is this Important?
Protection of our clients’ credit is something we have written about in the past, particularly in the context of the Equifax Data Breach. We have also recommended that our clients permanently opt out of prescreened credit and insurance offers as a way to reduce exposure to identity theft. We believe that these small proactive steps are worth your time in order to reduce exposure to the extent possible.
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze is a recommended way to keep your personal information safe from credit fraud and identity theft. When you freeze your credit, access to your credit files are blocked so that it can’t be accessed unless you lift the freeze.
In the past, victims of identity theft could request a credit freeze from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – but if proof of identity theft could not be provided, each bureau charged a fee for this service. The fees varied by state, and while some states prohibited them, others allowed charges of $3 to $10. As all three credit bureaus need to be contacted separately to set up a credit freeze, so a credit freeze could have potentially cost $30 to establish.
What are the New Developments?
The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law in May of 2018 and recently took effect in September of 2018. This act made a change that now allows consumers to “freeze” their credit, and also temporarily or permanently “thaw” their files, without charge. Another change that has been made is the minimum time that nationwide consumer reporting agencies must include an initial fraud alert in a consumer’s file. This has been extended from 90 days to one year.
We believe that the benefit of freezing your credit outweighs the minor hassle of having to unfreeze it should you need to run a credit check. Should you choose to follow through, you can do it online. Here are the links:
For Equifax: www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
For Experian: www.experian.com/freeze
For TransUnion: www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
And finally, as we always say, “If you think you might need an attorney, you probably do.” Contact us to set up a consultation…we love answering questions!