By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. But when one was hacked, it prompted lawmakers to rethink security across the board.

“With the Equifax breach we were what was hacked. Not a card that can simply be replaced,” Computer Forensic Services chief technology officer Mark Lanterman said.

Now people can put a “freeze” on their credit for free as part of a new federal law. But what is a credit freeze exactly?

“If we put freezes on them we prevent [thieves] from being approved for loans,” Lanterman said.

That means in the same way a hacker couldn’t open a credit card in your name, you couldn’t either during a freeze. Lanterman says you can easily un-freeze your accounts without any penalty.  He says the small inconvenience is worth the protection.

“We need to take responsibility and put freezes on all of our credit reports,” Lanterman said.

Locks are also different, as they can have monthly fees are not included in the federal law. You are able to freeze credit for your children under the age of 16.

“It’s common for criminals to apply for credit using the names and social security cards of children,” Lanterman said.

How long until your family’s information is safe?  The reality is if it was compromised in the breach, it’s out there forever.

The new law also extends how long a fraud alert will remain on your credit report from 90 days up to a year. Fraud alerts are less severe than a freeze and will alert you only after suspicious activity has been detected.

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