As summarized nicely in the FTC FAQs below, there is a new law, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, that makes credit freezes free and extends fraud alerts to last a full year. Here are some of the most common questions raised about this new law, and the FTC’s answers:
Q: I already had a credit freeze in place when the new law took effect on September 21, 2018. Is it still in effect?
A: Yes, your credit freeze is still in effect. The next time you lift or replace the freeze, it will be free.
Q: If I paid for a freeze before September 21, do I get my money back?
A: No, the new law does not provide for that. But the next time you lift or place your freeze, it will be free.
Q: Does my credit score stay the same when a credit freeze is in effect?
A: No, your credit score can still change while a freeze is in effect. A freeze on your credit file does not freeze your credit score. For example, creditors can still report delinquent accounts and that may negatively affect your score.
Q: Can I still use my credit card when a credit freeze is in place?
A: Yes, you can still use your credit card and other existing credit accounts. The freeze restricts access to your credit file. That makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit file before they approve a new account. It also means that, if you’re applying for a mortgage, student loan, new credit card, or other credit account, you’ll need to lift the freeze first.
Q: I already had a fraud alert in place when the law took effect on September 21, 2018. Do I need to request a new fraud alert if I want a year-long alert?
A: Yes, you should request a new fraud alert. You can make the request at one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion), and it will alert the other two.
Q: How is placing a fraud alert different from placing a credit freeze?
A: To place a fraud alert, notify any one of the three credit bureaus and they must inform the other two. The fraud alert stays in place for one year. To place a credit freeze, contact each of the three credit bureaus individually. A freeze stays in place until you ask the credit bureau to temporarily lift it, or remove it altogether. If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit bureau the business will contact for your file, you can save some time by lifting the freeze only at that particular credit bureau. Otherwise, you’d need to ask all three credit bureaus. For more information, read Place a Fraud Alert and Credit Freeze FAQs.
Q: Where can I find the contact information for Equifax, Experian and TransUnion?
A: IdentityTheft.gov/creditbureaucontacts lists all of the URLs and phone numbers that you can use to exercise your rights under the new law.
Q: What can I do if I’m having trouble placing a fraud alert or credit freeze?
A: Call the credit bureaus first to try to straighten things out. Then, if you still think a credit bureau is not placing an alert or freeze properly, report it to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection at consumerfinance.gov/complaint or 855-411-2372.