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7-19-18

No Fees to Freeze!
Credit reporting agencies forced to remove fees


By Tami Stevenson


Freezing credit is considered by many to be the best way for consumers to protect their credit from identity fraud. In the past, however, monthly fees were involved with each credit reporting agency that made it difficult for many to add those fees into their budget. President Trump signed into law on May 24 of this year, S.2155 - Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act that, among other things, like improving consumer access to mortgage credit — allows consumers to freeze and un-freeze their credit files at Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — the three major credit reporting bureaus — without charge. Although Equifax is already offering it for free, this new federal law will not take effect until sometime in September as agencies were given 120 days to implement the new law.


However, as of July 1, 2018, Floridians have a head start on that date with House Bill No. 953 named “Consumer Report Security Freezes” that was approved by Governor Scott on March 21, 2018 and took effect July 1. According to this Act, during a security freeze on credit, the agencies have up to three business days to temporarily lift the freeze, upon the consumer’s request in writing by mail. The report does not state how long agencies have to implement the initial freeze once contacted by consumers, but upon further research, according to the 2018 Florida Statutes, the credit reporting bureaus have up to five business days after receiving the request by mail from the consumer to put the freeze in place.  So plan ahead if your credit is frozen before making major purchases where your credit would have to be approved. To remove the freeze all together, according to the text in the Act, the agencies have up to thirty days, which is a stark contrast to the federal law. According to S.2155 text, the credit reporting bureaus will have one business day to put the freeze in place, if the request is made by a toll-free telephone or secure electronic means. If by mail, bureaus will have three business days after receiving the request directly from the consumer. To remove the freeze — one hour, if by phone or secure electronic means or three days if by mail.


According to a release from Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, last year more than 16 million consumers were impacted by identity fraud in the United States and criminals stole more than $16 billion from accounts. Cybersecurity continues to be a major concern across the state of Florida. The release stated it is important that consumers are empowered to keep their identity protected without having to jump through hoops or pay fees.