Freezing your credit to protect your identity now free in US under new law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Identity theft is a constant threat.

But as of Friday, there's something free you can do to protect yourself if you become a victim.

The three major credit reporting agencies now allow you to freeze your credit report at no charge. Before Friday, they all charged up to $10.

Ron Farmer got some gut wrenching messages Thursday about his sensitive information.

"Two of my credit card companies sent me an email yesterday saying my social security number was identified as being on suspicious websites," Farmer said.

So, Farmer took action.

"The companies gave me steps to go in and do the freeze to protect from new accounts from being opened," Farmer said.

He's talking about a freeze of his credit report. As of Friday, the freeze process is free with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Farmer is the vice president of Credit and Homeownership Empowerment Services, Inc., a nonprofit financial empowerment organization that helps people with things like building and understanding credit.

"The freeze can be used as a preventative measure or a way to protect if their identity has been or some sensitive information has been compromised," Farmer said.

Let's say you get an email like those Farmer received. According to Farmer, the freeze will stop thieves from opening new accounts using your stolen information. Creditors won't be able to issue the thieves cards in your name.

"In order to be completely effective, this credit freeze will need to be established with all three of the credit reporting agencies," Farmer said.

Farmer said the new cost-free feature will keep more people safe from identify theft.

"It allows all income demographics to be able to protect their credit," Farmer said.

If you freeze your credit report, you'll be given a pin to thaw it when you're ready or when you need a creditor to pull your information for something like a home purchase. You'll still be able to use the credit cards you already have.