The three major consumer credit bureaus are now required to offer free credit freezes to consumers and their dependents, thanks to credit union advocacy.
As of Sept. 21, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act will:
- Require credit bureaus to provide fraud alerts on consumer credit reports for at least one year (up from 90 days) when notified by an individual who believes he or she has been or may become a victim of fraud or identity theft; and
- Provide consumers the right to place (and remove) a security freeze on their credit reports free of charge (in the case of a minor, the parent or authorized representative may request the credit freeze).
A credit freeze, also known as a "security freeze," restricts access to a consumer's credit file, making it tougher for crooks to steal their identities and open new accounts in their names. Some states allowed the credit bureaus to charge fees for such freezes, but the Economic Growth Act makes them free. This protection has grown in importance with the prevalence of data breaches.
These compliance obligations directly impact credit reporting agencies, not credit unions. Still, credit unions should be aware of these changes so they can inform members of their rights if there is a data breach or fraudulent activity on accounts.
The Federal Trade Commission provides a good explanation regarding how free credit freezes work.
The change is the result of the credit union-supported Federal Economic Growth Act (S.2155), which was signed into law earlier this year. It made a long list of changes to federal statutes that affect financial services. The League summarized its key provisions in a Compliance Courier back in July.
- Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued new Summary of Consumer Identity Theft Rights and the Summary of Consumer Rights forms for the credit bureaus to provide to consumers, explaining the credit freeze laws. Credit unions are not required to provide these notices.
- As of May 24, 2019, credit reporting agencies must offer free electronic credit monitoring to all active duty military. We covered that in our July recap of the Economic Growth Act's key provisions, too.
The League and CUNA engage with credit union Activists in a 360-degree advocacy approach that helps credit unions positively shape their operating environment and remove barriers to serving members. Read more articles in our Unite for Good series.