New law helps protect your credit against identity thieves

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

We all know the value of a good credit score but what if you credit isn't under your control. Starting Friday, we can all take advantage of new law to help prevent identity theft.

Just as Janet Davis was starting to make a home with her children and husband, her world came crashing down.

"We went to go look for a starter home and that's when red flags came popping up. I thought it's probably because I don't have credit established but they said ‘No honey, you have so much credit against you. You have things in collections from 6 months ago,” Davis said to KAKE News Investigates.

When she was 20 years old, an identity thief took over her life, and for more than a year, inundated her credit with fraudulent accounts and purchases.

“I didn't think it'd happen to me. I really didn't. I had no credit established. I'm fine. I'm just a young kid. Well, guess what? I got targeted.”

She's far from alone. In 2017 the federal trade commission received 133,000 reports from people who said their information was used to open new accounts or misused on existing accounts.  In Kansas, that loss $6.2 million dollars or around $500 a person.

"Your identity, once it's stolen is available to that thief and potentially other thieves. They can use that identity for as long as it pops up...potentially decades."

While the statistics are scary, Rod Griffin from Experian says a new law that goes into effect Friday doubles down on consumer protection.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act has long but the outcome is simple. You place a freeze on your credit and no one, not even you, can open new accounts in your name. What the law did, was make it free.

"It should be a fairly simple process and it's peace of mind for some people," said Griffin.

You just have to remember that if you have a freeze in place...you have to lift it before applying for a car, a home or a credit card. Lifting that freeze is pretty easy... Go to each credit agency's site or give them a call, provide a security pin, set a time frame you want the freeze lifted and you're free to shop within the hour. 

Both griffin and Francis Creighton from the Consumer Data Industry Association insist that while credit freezes solve many problems, there are other options to consider.

"If you're going to be credit active, you get the new iPhone, want a credit card, a mortgage, the right thing to do might to get a security alert. A security alert tells a lender, hey let's really double check before you lend money to this person."

Whatever your choice, Griffin and Creighton laid out this series of steps. First, check your bills. Too many people never look at statements and thieves go unnoticed. Then, when you get a credit card, choose a company like Capital One that sends fraud alerts. Also, look at your credit report once a year. We all get one free report per year. Make sure you set security alerts. And lastly, enable that credit freeze especially if you've already a victim of identity theft.

For Davis, any of these options could have stopped her thief in her tracks.

“That would have been fantastic. It would have made it harder for her.”

14 years later, the nightmare still hasn't ended. While she is happy in her Andover home, that thief, more than a decade ago, still prevents her from buying a house. So now she waits and hopes her story helps others.

“The ripple effect of this has just devastated us. I would love to help anybody.”

It’s important to note that a credit freeze helps prevent fraud, but it does not stop collectors from reporting delinquent accounts. You can still ruin your own credit so pay your bills. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act goes into effect tomorrow.