As of Sept. 21, a new law requires that the three major credit reporting bureaus allow you to place or lift a security freeze on your credit files without charge.
When your files are frozen, lenders can’t check your credit. That means an identity thief can’t take out new credit or borrow in your name.
The law change comes roughly a year after an Equifax breach that may have affected nearly 150 million consumers. Many security experts were recommending consumers freeze their credit.
At that time, a freeze was free, but an “unfreeze” cost between $3 to $10 in most states. Now, you will be able to freeze and unfreeze your report and credit bureaus will be required to fulfill requests within one business day (three days if you mail your request).
Placing a freeze is easy, although you will have to do so separately with each of the three bureaus.
In the last year, more than 90 percent of Americans say they’ve taken some action to protect themselves from identity theft, although just 8 percent say they’ve frozen their credit report, according to a CompareCards.com survey.
Placing a freeze on your credit report doesn’t prevent you (or criminals) from using your existing credit cards, but it can stop a thief from opening a new one in your name.