Security Freezes Offered by All Three Major Credit Reporting AgenciesOctober 31, 2007
Eleven states remain without security freeze laws, but consumers in those states now have another option. The three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—will help bridge that gap in consumer protection by allowing consumers in all fifty states to freeze and unfreeze their credit files. We reported earlier on TransUnion’s and Equifax’s plans to offer freezes. TransUnion began offering freeze services Oct. 15. Equifax’s services start today, Oct. 31, and Experian’s start tomorrow, Nov. 1.
A security freeze is one of a few critical tools that consumers can use to protect themselves against identity theft-related fraud. By placing a freeze on your credit files with the three major credit reporting agencies, creditors are blocked from checking your files. In most cases, if a creditor can’t check your files, no new credit will be issued in your name unless you specifically “thaw” the freeze temporarily by contacting the credit reporting agencies, using a specially provided PIN.
Of course, the freeze isn’t a magic bullet solution as it doesn’t protect existing accounts from fraud, but it can shoot down anyone trying to open up a new account or get new credit in your name (if the credit issuer requires access to your credit files; some do not).
“In the absence of one national standard for file freeze, we are closing the loop and allowing consumers in those states that do not have laws in place to take advantage of this type of protection,” said J. Dann Adams, President, Equifax U.S. Consumer Information Services, in an Oct. 24 statement.
The credit reporting agencies plan makes credit file freezing available to consumers in the 39 states, plus the District of Columbia, which already have security freeze laws in place, as well as those that do not (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia have yet to pass security freeze laws). TransUnion and Equifax also offer freezes in Puerto Rico; Experian’s freeze services also extend to U.S. territories.
Consumers must contact each credit reporting agency to place a freeze on their credit files, following each agency’s guide for activating the freeze. If the consumer’s state law does not otherwise specify, fees do apply.
Find out more by checking out this Consumers Union FAQ on security freezes.
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