Ahead of three changes to what Equifax is offering consumers following its breach of 145 million consumer records, WashPIRG is urging Washingtonians to get free credit freezes with Equifax by January 31st if they haven’t already.
“Getting credit freezes at all three national credit bureaus is the best action consumers can take after the Equifax breach, whether they were affected by it or not,” said WashPIRG Director Elise Orlick. “Even though you’ll outrageously still have to pay fees at Experian and TransUnion, you should get the free freeze with Equifax while you still can.”
The three changes to what Equifax is offering consumers are the following:
TrustedID Premier: January 31st is the last day to sign up for TrustedID Premier, Equifax’s initial offer after the breach. It provides one year of free services such as credit monitoring. It doesn’t hurt to sign up for these services. However, you should know they are limited and, at best, only alert you to identity theft after it has occurred. Therefore, we also recommend you freeze your credit reports with all three national credit bureaus.
Equifax Credit Freeze: January 31st is also the last day Equifax will waive the fee it normally charges consumers to get credit freezes on their Equifax credit reports. We recommend that you take advantage of this option. The page for getting it is available at www.freeze.equifax.com.
What is a credit freeze? It is a commonsense tool that allows consumers to freeze access to their credit history and scores, denying thieves the ability to open any fake accounts in their names.
Note: For complete protection, you’ll need to freeze your reports with the other two bureaus, too. In Washington, it costs $10 to get a freeze at each bureau and $10 each time you want to temporarily remove a freeze or apply for credit, or in some cases, apply for a job. WashPIRG opposes these fees because consumers shouldn’t have to pay to protect themselves for a problem they didn’t create. However, we recommend paying the fees for the peace of mind that comes from protecting yourself from new account identity theft.
Lock & Alert: January 31st is the launch date for Lock & Alert, a service that will let consumers lock and unlock their Equifax credit reports indefinitely for free. This service only blocks access to Equifax credit reports, not credit reports at the other two bureaus.
Locks appear to block access to credit reports the same way freezes do. However, freezes are a right by law and not conditional on terms set by companies. We will review the terms of service when they are made public to determine if it is a good option for consumers. As with a freeze, this lock is only for Equifax reports, so credit freezes are also needed with the two other bureaus.
“Blocking access to your credit report with one bureau but not the other two is like locking your front door but leaving your garage and back doors wide open,” said Orlick. “That’s why WashPIRG is working with state policymakers to make credit freezes free at all three national credit bureaus. We didn’t hire Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to collect financial data about us, and we certainly didn’t give them permission to lose it. So shouldn’t we have a right by law to to keep our financial information private and secure for free?”