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Consumers who don’t have a credit freeze on their Equifax credit reports should strongly consider getting one before the calendar turns to February, if they signed up for the company’s TrustedID Premier product. TrustedID Premier, which the company offered consumers after its massive data breach, expires January 31, 2019. Consumers who used TrustedID Premier to monitor their credit and lock their Equifax credit reports for the past year will automatically have their Equifax reports unlocked when the service expires.
“More than a year later, Equifax continues to bungle its response to the worst data breach in history. Plain and simple, consumers should get free credit freezes at all three national credit bureaus,” said Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s consumer campaign director.
Consumers who signed up for Equifax’s TrustedID Premier have received expiration notification emails with offers for Experian’s IDnotify, a free one year service including credit monitoring and a credit lock on Experian credit reports (not Equifax reports).
The emails do not explain that Equifax credit reports locked through TrustedID Premier will be unlocked and will need to either be relocked using Equifax’s separate Lock & Alert service or frozen with a credit freeze. This information is provided only after going to and clicking through a separate FAQ page.
Locks and credit freezes both block access to credit reports. That can stop identity thieves from opening new credit accounts using your stolen Social Security number.
However, U.S. PIRG Education Fund recommends credit freezes over credit locks because freezes are a right mandated by law and not conditional on terms set by companies. For example, Experian’s IDnotify comes with a forced arbitration clause; when consumers agree to it, they waive their right to a day in court should something go wrong with the service.
Whether consumers opt for a freeze or a lock, they need to get it for their credit reports at all three national credit bureaus because creditors may run credit checks with any one or a combination of the bureaus. Consumers also can place freezes online for free with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, or place them by mail or by phone.
U.S. PIRG Education Fund also recommends freezes at a fourth bureau, the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE) because some news outlets have reported that cell phone companies have opened fraudulent accounts using credit reports provided by NCTUE.
“The threat of identity theft is unfortunately all too real. But you can take steps to prevent and detect different types.” said Litt. “Start with credit freezes if you don’t have them already. You should get your free credit freezes today, because each day that goes by is another day an identity thief could open accounts and rack up a ton of debt in your name.”
U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being.
Your donation supports U.S. PIRG’s work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.