Free credit freezes, one-year fraud alerts take effect for all US citizens

Starting Friday, consumers across the U.S. are eligible for a free credit freeze from all three major credit bureaus, as well as one year of fraud alerts for free, thanks to a new federal law.

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The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act ensures that consumers who were in states that charged money to implement a credit freeze will no longer have to do so. Some of those states had already taken their own separate action earlier this year.

President Trump signed the new federal law on May 24, but it took 120 days for the consumer credit rules to take effect. As of Friday, it is now the law of the land.

Equifax has offered free credit freezes for all consumers since the company suffered a major breach in 2017 that exposed highly sensitive personal data, including Social Security numbers, of more than 145 million people.

Following the breach, states around the U.S. have sought to take matters into their own hands, such as in Massachusetts, where the attorney general is suing Equifax. The unprecedented breach affected some 60 percent of adults in America, and inspired a wave of consumers to initiate credit freezes at major bureaus to protect themselves.

OWI Insight: The federal government made the right move in making credit freezes free for all, giving some power back to consumers and bringing down barriers. However, much more needs to be done to fix America’s broken identity institutions, which remain heavily and unnecessarily reliant on the Social Security number.