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New law makes "credit freezes" free for all

You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams.

The battle to protect your identity and credit is getting a little easier—or at least cheaper—thanks to a new law.

In the past, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion have charged fees to freeze and unfreeze your credit reports. Previously, you needed to pay fees of $2 to $10 to each of the three credit rating agencies separately to freeze your credit. Then you had to pay again to thaw your file.

A new law enacted earlier this year allows consumers to now freeze and thaw their credit reports with the three credit reporting agencies for free.

How It Works:

  • A credit freeze locks your credit file, which makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. You will get a PIN to use so you can unfreeze your account to apply for new credit, and then freeze it again.
  • Alternatively, you can place a “fraud alert” on your reports that will require any business that runs your credit to contact you before opening a new account. These alerts used to last 90 days, but the new law extends them to one year.

What You Should Know:

  • While a credit freeze can deter scammers from opening new accounts in your name, it doesn’t stop them from getting into your current financial accounts and wreaking havoc. So it’s important to still monitor your accounts.
  • To keep close tabs on banking, credit and other financial accounts, set up online access (on the internet or through the institution’s app if you have a smart phone) to monitor your accounts regularly.
  • In order to freeze your credit reports, remember that it needs to be done with each of the major credit rating agencies. The same is true when you want to unfreeze your credit reports.

What You Should Do:

Follow the steps here to freeze your credit and the credit of each adult in your household. If you have children under the age of 16, consider freezing their credit, too, until they are old enough to use credit.

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is your number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this alert with friends and family.

This is a message from AARP Washington and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, you can contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 1-877-908-3360 for help. You can also file a consumer complaint with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.

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