The Federal Trade Commision announced that as of September 21, consumers who are concerned about identity theft or data breaches can freeze their credit and place one-year fraud alerts for free. This ruling comes as the new Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, meant to to evolve and streamline regulations put in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.
“A security freeze is an important fraud-fighting tool against financial identity theft and data breaches,” said Mike Crapo, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. “Starting today, you can freeze and thaw your account as many times as you need to for free. This is just one of several provisions in this law that will help to protect Idahoans from identity theft and other circumstances that could harm their credit.”
In order to initiate a freeze under the new law, consumers will need to contact all three nationwide credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Whether consumers ask for a freeze online or by phone, the credit bureau must put the freeze in place within one business day. When consumers request to lift the freeze by phone or online, the credit bureaus must take that action within one hour.
In addition, the new law extends the duration of a fraud alert on a consumer’s credit report from 90 days to one year. A fraud alert requires businesses that check a consumer’s credit to get the consumer’s approval before opening a new account. For a a fraud alert, consumers need only contact one of the three credit bureaus, which will notify the other two bureaus.
The law may give added security to consumers worried about fraud, especially as technology advances. In a story on DS News, Jessica Dore, head of Rehmann’s Technology Risk Management Group, noted that “while innovations and new technologies give consumers instant access to money, they also give fraudsters that same access.”
Dore noted that according to the FBI, the Internet Crime Complaint Center saw a 480 percent increase in the number of complaints filed last year by those who work in the real estate industry. Also in 2017, cyber-criminals stole or attempted to steal almost $1 billion from real estate purchase transactions, up from just $19 million in 2016. Giving consumers the ability to quickly freeze their accounts can prevent many cases identity theft and fraudulent transfers.
Read more about how real estate fraud can be prevented: