Equifax Details Credit Freeze Plans
Big three credit reporting bureau Equifax on Wednesday detailed its plan to offer certain consumers the ability to freeze their credit files as a means of preventing identity theft. The offering provides a clearer picture of how the credit bureaus are likely to deploy this process.
Earlier this month, the other two credit bureaus -- Experian and TransUnion -- said they would offer credit-freeze rights to consumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In announcing its program, Equifax said that beginning Oct. 31 it would start offering credit freezes to consumers in the 11 states (and Puerto Rico) where there currently are no security freeze laws in place. In those areas, the company plans to charge consumers $10 to place, thaw or remove credit freezes, while offering them for free to confirmed identity theft victims.
For consumers in the 39 other states (and D.C.), Equifax will continue to offer the credit freeze opportunities that are afforded to them under the rules set by those states, the company said.
While it would appear that consumers in all 50 states and D.C. will soon have credit freeze rights, there are four states -- Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota -- that only offer freezes to confirmed ID theft victims.
Equifax and the other bureaus will still require consumers to apply for freezes using certified mail, which adds additional costs and hassle to the process while providing no additional security or authentication (the U.S. Postal Service doesn't check your ID when you send certified mail).
Equifax is using the credit freeze offering as an opportunity to upsell consumers. The company said that U.S. consumers who purchase its Credit Watch monitoring service, which costs between $5 and $10 a month, will be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit files online.
It's not clear whether this is the same approach that Experian and TransUnion will adopt. But Jeannine Kenney, a senior policy analyst with Consumers Union, said it is likely that the other two will follow suit.
Kenney said it's also likely that consumers in a handful of states that charge more than $10 for placing, lifting or removing a freeze will not be able take advantage of the lower fees offered by the credit bureaus.
Security Fix will be monitoring the rollout of these services during the next couple of weeks, and will walk users through the various hoops they need to jump through to understand and/or exercise their credit-freeze rights.
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