Freeze or thaw credit for free with new law starting July 1

070412 ATLANTA: The finale fireworks spectacular light up over the Downtown skyline synchronized to a special selection of patriotic music at the 2012 Centennial Olympic Park's 4th of July Celebration of "Georgia Salutes America" in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 4, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Starting July 1, Georgians can freeze their credit, free of charge, compliments of Senate Bill 376 signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Attorney General Chris Carr said that a credit freeze can be a powerful and proactive weapon against identity theft.

“We hope this new law will encourage more Georgians to use this simple tool to protect themselves from fraud,” he said June 27.

When a freeze is in place, credit reporting agencies cannot release consumers’ credit reports or credit scores unless consumers first remove the freeze by providing a PIN or password.

Since lenders and creditors rely on access to consumers’ credit files to determine their creditworthiness, denying access through a freeze makes it very difficult for an identity thief to open a new credit account or get a loan in a victim’s name.

To place a credit freeze on your file, consumers must contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies:

Experian: 1-888-397-3742, www.experian.com/freeze/center.html.

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111, www.freeze.equifax.com.

Other specialized credit reporting agencies including the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange must be contacted directly.

NCTUE maintains data reported by some telecommunication, pay TV and utility service providers. To place or remove a security freeze on your NCTUE account, call 1-866-349-5355 or visit www.exchangeservicecenter.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp.

Carr say a credit freeze does not affect a consumer’s existing credit in any way.

“However, if you want to apply for a new loan or credit card, you will need to contact the credit reporting agencies to have the freeze temporarily lifted or thawed,” he said.

A new federal law to make credit freezes free nationwide will go into effect Sept. 21.