September 21, 2018
20th Judicial District
District Attorney Michael Dougherty
Community Protection Division: 303-441-3700
Placing and Managing a Credit Freeze: Free in Colorado
(Boulder County, Colo.) -- District Attorney Michael Dougherty advises consumers that it is now free to place and manage a credit freeze in Colorado. The Community Protection Division of the DA’s office believes that a credit freeze is the strongest way to protect against identity theft: by restricting access to a consumer’s credit file, a freeze makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in a consumer’s name.
A new federal law taking effect today allows consumers to place or lift a credit freeze for free anywhere in the U.S. Previously in Colorado it had been free to place the freeze, but credit reporting agencies could charge a fee of up to $12 to lift it. The new law eliminates all fees. In addition, the law permits consumers to initiate fraud alerts for a period of one year, rather than the 90-day period previously in effect.
How does a credit freeze work? A credit freeze restricts access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. While a credit freeze does not affect use of existing credit cards, loans or other credit arrangements, it prohibits a new lender’s access to your credit file (often a key part of the approval process for a new credit card or loan), whether on your behalf or anyone else's. Because a new lender is not able to check credit when a freeze is in place, it would likely not issue a new credit card or account in your name. Consumers can place a freeze by mail, or by calling or visiting the websites of the three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- What’s new? Before the new law, credit reporting agencies could charge Colorado consumers fees to lift or suspend a freeze when consumers needed to have a credit check completed. As of today, it is free to unfreeze a credit file temporarily for any purpose.
- What about credit freezes for children? A parent or guardian of a child under 16 can freeze the child’s credit for free, but must do so by mailing in freeze requests to the three credit reporting agencies. If a credit reporting agency has not already created a record for the child, it will create the record and then place a freeze on it. Children 16 or older must request their own credit freezes, and can do so online. In some cases, children age 16 or 17 may need to mail copies of a driver’s license or state-issued identification to the credit reporting agencies in order to place the freeze.
- Protection for older relatives. The new law allows guardians, conservators and those with a valid power of attorney to place a credit freeze on a protected person’s credit for free. This allows anyone with legal responsibility for an older person’s finances to place a credit freeze on that person’s behalf.
What is a fraud alert? Less protective than a freeze, a fraud alert allows lenders and businesses access to your credit file, but informs them that your personal data may have been compromised. The alert requires the lender or business to take extra steps to verify your identity before approving any new credit. Unlike a credit freeze, a fraud alert placed at one credit reporting agency is automatically placed at all three.
What’s new? Prior to the new law, initial fraud alerts lasted 90 days. Beginning today, an initial fraud alert will last for one year. (It will still be free.) Identity theft victims can get an extended fraud alert for seven years.
For more information or instructions on how to place a credit freeze, contact the Community Protection Division of the Boulder District Attorney’s office (303) 441-3700