MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new law makes it easier for consumers to freeze and thaw their credit scores, one year after the historic Equifax that compromised 143 million consumers’ personal information.
It used to cost people $3-$10 to freeze a credit score, which prevents unauthorized people from opening new accounts, and another $3-$10 to lift that freeze, which is sometimes necessary when applying for a loan or renting an apartment. The turnaround time for both steps typically took 2-4 days.
Under the new legislation, credit freezes and thaws are free, with a turnaround time of less than one day, encouraging consumers to take steps to protect their credit or that of their children. People can do so online, through each of the credit bureaus.
LSS Financial Counselor Shannon Doyle explained how child identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S., in part because parents don’t always think to protect it.
Children who lack a credit score can still fall victim because their “thin file” contains identifiable information such as their name, address, and social security number.
“They can contact the credit bureaus and ask for a manual search under the child’s name, social security and date of birth,” said Doyle. “The parent might need to offer some sort of documentation for that, but it’s a good thing to check out.”
The new law allows parents to freeze their child’s credit if they are under 16 years old.
Doyle advises everyone freeze their credit, as it is easier than ever before.
“A lot of people who even have bad credit think, well who’s going to want to steal my identity,” said Doyle. “But the problem is, that doesn’t matter to identity thieves because the information they’re looking for is social security numbers, job history, address history, phone history, because when they have that information they can create new identities.”
She emphasizes, when it comes to personal information, consumers are not just consumers. They are also the product, with valuable information to anyone seeking access to data they otherwise shouldn’t have.