It is possible to place a “credit freeze” on one’s account at the credit reporting companies. The major ones are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
A freeze prevents other companies from doing credit checks on you, which generally prevents them from opening accounts in your name. This is important because the way that identity thieves monetize their theft is to open credit and bank accounts in your name, that you don’t even know about.
At present, credit freezes are governed by individual state laws, that range all over the map. In Massachusetts, a victim of identity theft with a police report can get a credit freeze for free, but everyone else must pay $5 to each agency to place a freeze and another $5 to lift it, even temporarily, to apply for credit.
In view of the recent Equifax breach which revealed the private information of millions of Americans, it it clear that the credit reporting industry itself cannot be trusted to keep personal information secure.
I propose that credit freezes and credit monitoring be made free for everyone. I would go further and suggest that a credit freeze should be the default state, but I suspect that would just destroy the whole industry (is that a bad thing?)
Since companies cannot keep private information secure, the alternative seems to be to devalue the information. Credit freezes help do that.
This will require state by state or federal legislation. I have just contacted my state representative and senator here in Massachusetts, as well as my representative in congress and both senators, requesting that they sponsor and support such legislation.
I recommend that you do the same.
Here’s what I sent Representative Clark:
I am Lawrence Stewart, of XXX.
In view of the recent Equifax breach which revealed the private information of millions of Americans, including 3 million Massachusetts residents, it is clear that the credit reporting industry cannot be trusted to keep personal information secure.
At present, the best defense against identity theft is a credit freeze, which prevents companies from doing credit checks without your permission. This stops identity thieves from opening accounts in your name.
Credit freezes are governed by a conflicting mess of state laws. Generally someone who has been a victim of identity theft can request a freeze for free, but the rest of us have to pay for the privilege of protecting our credit to the very companies that caused the problem through their negligence.
I urge you to introduce or support legislation to make credit freezes free for everyone. It is the best way to hold industry accountable for their actions and the best way to protect the citizens from identity theft.