BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - As we approach the New Year, many are plotting financial goals for 2019. Consumer experts recommend adding “freeze your credit” to your to-do list.
A federal law enacted just this past September makes this service free for the first time through the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
“The reason this is important is because in this age where there are so many ways your bank accounts can be compromised. Your identity can be compromised," David Smitherman of the Better Business Bureau told WBRC.
Under this new law, consumers can call those agencies and tell them no new accounts should be opened in their name. Credit freezes are frequently recommended to victims of data breaches or identity fraud but previously companies could charge a fee for the protection service. Now the agencies have 24 hours to freeze the customer’s information and only one hour to unfreeze it if requested.
Using a credit freeze allows consumers to take control and stop crooks from opening credit cards or taking out loans in their name, while leaving their current accounts unaffected.
Other financial advisers urge consumers to take those freezes one step further and also lockdown their children’s information.
”It does behoove us to think about freezing their credit or putting a fraud alert on their credit at an early age," Dorothea Bernique of Increasing HOPE Financial Training Center in South Carolina told Raycom News. “Do it even before they actually intend to use their credit just as a means of protecting them from credit abuse as well.”
Credit scores are not affected when a freeze is applied. However, customers need to contact all three reporting agencies below and freeze their information through each.