LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Starting Friday, consumers who want to keep a close eye on their financial lives can freeze and unfreeze their credit files for free.

In the wake of hacking attacks and major data breaches that have even affected Equifax, a nationwide credit reporting agency, a new law that goes into effect today makes it free to request a freeze on a consumer’s credit file. Previously, it cost about $10 to put a freeze on a credit file with each agency, and consumers had to pay another fee to unfreeze the file.

The new law – known as the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act — also allows parents to put a freeze on their children’s credit files for free until the child is old enough to use credit and extends initial fraud alerts from 90 days to a year.

Federal Trade Commission officials urge consumers to not confuse a credit freeze with a credit lock, they work similarly, but locks may come with a monthly fee.

The law also requires credit reporting agencies to offer free electric credit monitoring to all active duty military.

Credit freezes must be requested separately with Equifax, Experian and Transunion.

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