UT Extension Expert Advises on Benefits and Steps to Freeze Credit

Picture of lock laying on top of credit cards
​Locking, or freezing, credit means that access to a credit report and to new lines of credit is restricted. UT Extension specialist suggests taking advantage of the new legislation which makes these credit freezes free to consumers. Image courtesy of Pixabay​

Thanks to a new federal law which went into effect September 21, 2018, consumers can now freeze credit at no cost. A credit freeze basically restricts access to a credit file, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in someone else’s name. University of Tennessee Extension specialist Ann A. Berry says credit freezes can help prevent identity theft and provide peace of mind.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act requires Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to allow consumers to request free fraud alerts and credit freezes. “A great resource is identitytheft.gov. This website will have links to request credit freezes from each of these credit monitoring companies,” says Berry.

Also available are free child credit freezes. “Any parent or guardian can freeze the credit of a child until they are old enough to use it. Identity theives do not discriminate against minors, and many Americans come of age to discover that their credit is already littered with accounts they never opened,” continues the expert.

So, how does it work? Consumers request a credit freeze, are given a PIN to use, and then can use that PIN to unfreeze the account any time they need to apply for new credit.

“This new law will help a lot of people. Before, credit freezes cost between $5.00 and $7.50, which can quickly add up,” says Berry. “Now anyone can have the peace of mind knowing that their credit is frozen and inaccessible for identity thefts.”

For more financial resources, contact the family and consumer sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at fcs.tennessee.edu

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Ann A. Berry, professor, UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, 865-974-8198, aaberry@utk.edu​