Now’s the time to freeze your Equifax
Equifax will freeze your credit report for free, but only until Jan. 31. After that deadline, consumers will have to pay the fee their state charges for a credit freeze. That costs up to $10 in some states.
Consumers can do so online, at this website, or by calling the agency
After a data breach at Equifax that exposed the personal data of more than 145 million U.S. adults, security experts recommended that consumers freeze their reports at the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian
— as a line of defense against fraudsters who might try to access them.
Freezing a report still costs a fee at TransUnion and Experian. However, TransUnion does offer some free services, including “locking” a report (which provides similar protections as freezing), which can be done online or by calling the agency.
Republican and Democratic senators have proposed bills that would require the credit bureaus to give consumers one free credit freeze and one free credit unfreeze per year, but no bill has passed yet.
Some consumer groups, including the nonprofit U.S. PIRG, a left-leaning federation of U.S. and Canadian non-profit organizations, have also opposed the fees. “Consumers shouldn’t have to pay to protect themselves from a problem they didn’t create,” it said.
What is a credit freeze — and is it different from a credit lock?
Credit reporting agencies are required by state laws to provide consumers with the ability to “freeze” their credit report.
A credit freeze prevents lenders from accessing a consumer’s credit report. A freeze means that a consumer cannot take out a new loan or credit card without “unfreezing” the report first.
Freezing or locking a report does not damage a consumer’s credit. Both are designed to protect consumers’ reports from criminals who may try to use their personal information for activities including opening lines of credit in their names, or even using it as identification after committing a crime.
Equifax has a free locking service called TrustedID Premier, which is also free to any consumers who sign up by Jan. 31.
Credit locking offers the same protections as a freeze, but often costs a monthly fee. Those services sometimes come with additional perks such as fraud alerts. Consumers are able to lock and unlock their reports themselves quickly, but they must contact the bureau and typically wait a few days to “unfreeze” a credit report.