A new state law has taken effect that allows identity theft victims to immediately freeze their credit in an attempt to prevent further damage.

Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights, and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff touted the new law at a news conference Wednesday at the Salt Lake County Ice Center.

"Utah's new credit freeze law stops identity thieves cold and quick," Shurtleff said in a statement Wednesday. "Consumers can freeze and thaw their credit in 15 minutes."

The Credit Freeze Protection Law allows identity theft victims to contact the three main credit bureaus with their name, birth date and Social Security number. For a small fee, they can freeze their credit and get a pin and password that allows them to open new credit accounts and make purchases. The freeze also prevents anyone from accessing that credit without the consumer's knowledge, the attorney general's office said.

The freeze doesn't affect ongoing credit lines and does not halt credit card companies from tracking a person's credit history. Some companies are also exempted from it, the attorney general said in his statement.

The bill was originally proposed in 2005 but was stalled because some merchants and auto dealers were troubled by a three-day thaw period. Through negotiations, that was changed to 15 minutes. The law took effect Sept. 1.

"Nearly everybody said it couldn't be done, but now Utah has the nation's first 15-minute credit thaw cycle," Walker said in the attorney general's statement. "It is a win-win solution because it protects consumers and businesses."

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