All three credit reporting agencies recently announced plans to let consumers freeze their credit files. Credit freezes provide security at the cost of convenience: access to credit reports and scores is prevented without the consumer’s express authorization, making it difficult to open new accounts or lines of credit. Freezes are considered one of the best, albeit drastic, ways to guard against identity theft.
Starting November 1, Experian will allow victims of identity theft to freeze and thaw their accounts for free. Others will have access to the same services, though the charge will vary by state.
Under a law that took effect in July, District residents can place, lift or remove a freeze for $10. Maryland’s law will require consumers to pay just $5, but it does not go into effect until January. Virginia has no credit freeze law.
At least 39 states and the District have laws that allow or will allow consumers to freeze their credit files, but many do not take effect until 2008 or 2009.
Experian’s move comes two weeks after a similar announcement from TransUnion. The final credit reporting agency, Equifax, is working out the final “operational details” of offering their own credit freeze option.
The credit reporting agencies’ newfound willingness to offer credit freezes is a boon to consumers, one made all the more potent by regularly checking your credit report for free.