New federal law will help you defend against identity theft for free

Published: Aug. 31, 2018 at 5:46 PM CDT
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If you were one of the over 16 million people who had their identities stolen this past year, you'll be encouraged to know that a new law will make it harder on thieves to prey on you.

Thanks to a bill passed by Congress, starting on September 21st all of us will be able to access the three big credit reporting agencies and freeze our credit reports for free. A transaction that now costs $15 in Missouri and Arkansas, which may not seem like much until you consider that you have to pay it every time you want to freeze or unfreeze your account.

But it is a very important to your security.

"It's a prevention against identity theft or people possibly filing for loans or credit cards that are maybe up to no good," said Lori Johnson Murawski, Telcomm Credit Union's vice President of Marketing and Business Development.

Those up to no good ripped off some 16.7 million people this past year with the cost of all that data totaling $17 billion.

But when you freeze your credit, imposters are unable to open a line of credit in your name, and you'll be notified if someone tries.

"There's really no downside to freezing your credit other than making sure you remember your PIN number that you're given when you freeze it,Murawski pointed out. "If you lose that PIN number or if you forget to unfreeze it, then it could delay the process."

Under the new law, the big three credit reporting agencies will be required to implement your freeze within one business day, timely considering that hackers can steal and start using your identity to buy items in as little as nine minutes.

"There was a time when you actually had to have the card in your hand if it was a credit card," Murawski recalled. "So as we are all more diverse in our shopping habits, the crooks are just as smart."

Even stealing the identities of people who have passed away or your children.

"And they may not even know about until they're 18 and applying for their first car loan," Murawski said. "It may be worthwhile for parents to consider freezing the credit for children under the age of 16 which this new law will now allow."

Congress passed the law after the big Equifax breach last year that affected over 143-million accounts. So freezing your credit report is definitely something to consider.

"If you have one financial institution and you only pay cash everywhere you go, it may not be something that you need to invest the time to do," Murawski said. "But I think for most of us, it's a pretty good idea."

The new law also lengthens fraud alerts from 90 days to a year for consumers whose identity has been stolen, letting creditors know that they should take additional steps to verify your identity.